Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Giving Grid

New York City is like many other cities in the U.S. and the world because, unfortunately, beggars of all shapes and sizes are relatively common. In the subways, the streets, and other public spaces, many individuals attempt to make a living by requesting charitable acts from passersby.

I try to be a giving person and to donate whenever possible. But recently I realized that I apply a subconscious method of evaluating who to give my hard-earned dollars to. I realized that not all beggars are created equal and that I use two instantaneous filters to evaluate my act of giving:
  1. Need. Need is the obvious filter for triggering a donation and is determined by a collection of different observable traits. These characteristics include how the beggar is dressed, the beggar's cleanliness, the begging-story (written on a paper or spoken), the beggar's physical state (e.g. weight), etc.
  2. Likeability. Likeability is the less obvious filter. Likeability is boosted by a coherent and logical verbal case for donation - including tone and passion. A non-threatening approach and appearance always helps increase the likeability factor. A musical and/or physical performance also usually boosts likeability.
I instantaneously apply this 2x2 grid to determine whether or not I open my wallet. Boxes II. and IV. sometimes receive a donation but a fundamental lack of a particular trait might prevent me from donating - e.g. a scary but clearly needy individual or a well dressed street performer. Box III. never receives a donation - e.g. a pushy yet well dressed beggar. Box I. always receives a donation - e.g. a talented performer who is modestly dressed.

Although it might seem odd and potentially cold that even the act of giving has a logical method, it does point to the fact that most decisions in life are far from random.

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