Prof Cacioppo presented some impressive research on loneliness and showed how being isolated increases mortality rates, both in humans and other animals. He emphasised that it was perceived isolation that counts most and that the increase in single households and shrinking (meaningful) social networks have led to an ‘epidemic of loneliness’ in the western world. This is demonstrated by the huge rise of depression reported, which the Professor argues is a symptom of loneliness.
So what has this to do with fundraising?
Well, there are three dimensions that are indicative of loneliness:
· Do you have someone who values you in life? Most commonly a spouse.
· Do you have many face-to-face connections?
· Do you have any ‘collective connectedness’?
That is connections that might occur through shared experiences, such as supporting a football team or being a member of a club.
It is this last dimension that fundraisers should be interested in. If through your interactions, communications and encounters with donors you can make them feel part of something and develop a sense of collected connectedness then not only will you raise more money, but you might also be helping someone break the cycle of loneliness and the associated social problems that it can cause.
Prof Cacioppo also argued that altruism and in particular volunteering can help people overcome loneliness. Volunteering forces people to interact but in a safe environment where the beneficiary is likely to be grateful. Therefore this increases the volunteers sense of worth and help ease them out of the downward spiral of increasing isolation, depression etc that loneliness can cause.
Prof Cacioppo has a book out which goes into much detail about this (I haven’t read it yet, but affiliate link to Amazon below) and his site also contains some interesting papers that you can download.