This time every year, millions of American’s will delight their loved ones by doing something we often only reserve for special occasions: They’ll give. Cupid’s trending hot right now.

For some, Valentine’s Day is a special opportunity to make their loved ones feel special. To be selfless. They’ll surprise and delight. They’ll buy flowers, chocolate, jewelry. They’ll curate a surprise, go on an adventure, dine at a fine restaurant. In fact, they’ll spend roughly $18.6 billion on each other.

So why do they do they this? Is it the act of giving itself – the joy one feels when making someone else happy – the pleasure of the act being more valuable than if they had done something for themselves? Is it the recognition? The story they’ll tell their friends and family afterwards? Or maybe it’s driven by the fact that about 85% of people say sex is important on Valentine’s day?

Others, however, are more cynical. They see expectations… marketing… Hallmark. For some, the act of giving this time of year is tainted. They feel the peer pressure to perform and it’s not motivating – 53% of women say they’d end their relationship if they didn’t get something on Valentine’s Day. Those that are single can feel the pressure to find someone or feel just plain unloved and excluded.

It’s tricky, giving. It can be beautiful, breathtaking, fulfilling. It can cause anxiety, cause rifts, lead to depression. How could a single day and simple act be so polarizing? After spending the past months speaking with people, companies and charities about the topic, you realize why. Giving is far more complicated that we ever thought. For the last 50 years the United States has not given more than 2% of our GDP (check out Dan Palotta’s Ted Talk on the subject). Change is hard.

When we set out to get to the heart of giving, there were a lot of questions that came up while brainstorming how to make it easier, more fun, and more impactful. Questions that would define the very essence of what we were going to build. It’s a behavioral problem. So, instead of doing the typical startup thing building the next silicon valley app and thinking technology will solve world hunger, thanks to some very good advice we broke out the IDEO Field Guide to Human Centered Design, and began writing down questions we wanted answers to such as:

What motivates people to give?

One of the most generous neighbors I’ve ever had last night said they never would never want any recognition, ever. It was not only a motivator but a turn off. So, what is it that motivates us? Is it knowing impact? Stories? Reward? Just the act itself?

Who are their biggest influencers?

Just today I received a beautiful email from a former acquaintance requesting I sponsor their Dance Marathon for a local hospital. Turns out someone I met once years ago and haven’t spoken with since has an influence on me. But who might that be for others? Celebrities? Coworkers? Random people on the street?

How do group dynamics change giving?

People are definitely more impactful when networked, but what groups are most impactful? Organized giving such as corporate programs present a huge opportunity for helping employees. But, some go about it all wrong. I heard a story recently of a friend who worked at a huge nonprofit that had an employee donation program. They sent an organization-wide email enumerating everyone’s private contributions. She was appalled. We want to know what impactful groups do, how they set up their programs, and how they succeed or fail.

What are the hurdles to giving?

Someone very close to me was filling out this question, and one answer jumped out. Lack of time to go out and research the opportunities to give. Busy and forgetful, definitely two of my biggest obstacles. Why does giving feel hard? Why is their guilt associated with it? How we can take these hurdles down a notch is a question that keeps us up at night.

There are a far more questions that need to be answered before moving forward with potential solutions, and we’re excited to learn.


And, for those of you that do celebrate Valentine’s Day, get creative and we hope you have a great time!

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