Chao Guo

Research Friday: Attention Philanthropy: The Good, the Bad, and the Road Ahead

posted by
Chao Guo, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor
University of Georgia

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

To celebrate my very first blog post, I decided to be brave: I will introduce an emerging concept: “Attention Philanthropy” (AP). This concept is actually inspired by a branch of economics called “attention economics” (AE), an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity. I define AP as philanthropy that is primarily concerned with getting donors and supporters to pay attention to a certain cause.

AP as a marketing strategy is not entirely new: many nonprofits have been using similar principles to further their philanthropic efforts. However, this practice is becoming increasingly prevalent as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. In our increasingly information-saturated world, people’s capacity for attention is overwhelmed by the 24-hour news cycle, countless social media outlets, and endless information at our fingertips.