Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Do We Give?

Steven D. Leavitt has highlighted altruism in his new book, "Superfreakonomics" -- very apropos now in this season of fall giving. Leavitt was interviewed on National Public Radio yesterday and is featured in today's New York Times article taken from a chapter of his new book.

If [psychologist]John List's research proves anything, it's that a question like "Are people innately altruistic?" is the wrong kind of question to ask. People aren't "good" or "bad." People are people, and they respond to incentives. They can nearly always be manipulated -- for good or ill -- if only you find the right levers.

I see a tie-in here with the organization founded by Chris Baty: National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo). He's asking for a donation of only $10 (or even $1) from each participant to defray staff and overhead expenses for the non-profit he has founded.

The history of how he founded National Novel Writing Month is well worth reading, very enlightening and even funny. The organization now has local "Municipal Liaisons" with blogs, and interesting articles and helpful ideas and interviews on the main website. Last year, in 2008, there were an astounding 119,301 participants around the world.

The history details how the organization grew from its infancy, and is now legally called the "Office of Letters and Light." When Yahoo featured them, their organization grew by 7,000 in one day. Demands on their computers, constantly tested, were further stretched when they expanded with an annual April play-writer's month, called Script Frenzy.

There's also a 250-word contest for young authors. Many schools are joining the effort.

I am going to be joining NaNoWriMo, too, and am currently plotting a story for a novel. I'll try to keep up with this blog. I have to. It's real. It's out there, and I love making it.

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