The holidays are coming up, which is supposed to bring out the good in people, making it a good season for fundraising campaigns. In the United States there is Giving Tuesday, the philanthropic counterpart of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the Netherlands we have 3FM Serious Request, which by now has come to be a solid part of our holiday traditions.
Serious Request is a fundraising event organized by the 3FM radio station, in collaboration with the Red Cross. The 6 days before Christmas Eve, DJ’s from the radio station will live in a house made of glass, positioned somewhere on the main square of a city in the Netherlands. They will not eat for the entire period, and will be working 24/7 while people from all over the Netherlands come to visit them, request songs, and contribute to their cause.
The goal of the event is to draw attention to, what they call, a silent disaster. The whole country mobilizes around this time of the year to come up with the most creative and jolly activities to raise money for the cause. In the past, these activities have included celebrities having a sleepover at the house with the DJ’s, individuals crocheting and selling hats, and whole schools organizing entire fundraising weeks.
This year, the DJ’s will enter the house in the city of Apeldoorn to raise funds to provide the Red Cross with the means to reunite families that have been ripped apart because of disaster or conflict.
Since the start in 2004 the amounts that have been raised have reached incredible heights, as shown in the figure below.
Last year’s edition of Serious Request has reached almost 10 million people through the radio, TV and internet. Furthermore, the initiative has successfully spread to several countries within Europe, Africa and Asia.
Given that the amounts of money raised are very high, and the number of people involved are enormous (even during crisis years and in a country that lately is deeply divided on many topics). This makes you wonder; what makes this particular initiative so successful year after year?
Is it that there is a concrete goal specified? Is it that the DJs grand gesture inspires people to want to do their part? Is it actually the holiday spirit (whatever that might mean)? Or maybe it is related to the diminishing hours of sunlight, or just the drop in temperatures?
This is where science comes in; whether it is psychology, biology, economics or political science, research from all sorts of disciplines can identify some of the mechanisms working here. If we can find out what the drivers are, perhaps we could consider replicating this elsewhere.
Thanks to Vera Cuijpers, junior researcher at the Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU Amsterdam, for this contribution.