Powerful donor motivators for fundraising

August 22, 2008

People are more likely to donate to pledge drive appeals when fundraisers tap into peoples' desire to help others, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Donors are also more likely to respond to appeals that involve negative emotions than pitches about benefits to the donor.

Authors Robert J. Fisher (University of Alberta), Mark Vandenbosch (University of Western Ontario), and Kersi D. Antia (University of Wisconsin-Madison) examined scripts for pledge breaks at a public television station. "The research findings suggest that viewers donated because they felt an obligation to do so—people expect self- or social censure if they don't help when they feel empathy for a person or organization they care about," they write.

Prevailing wisdom holds that people are generally selfish. Yet when it comes to donation appeals, it seems that potential donors are motivated by appeals that involve the benefit to others: the station, the community, or specific groups of people other than themselves.

The authors' research involved close examination of scripts for four fundraising campaigns for a public television station. There were 584 scripts and 4,868 appeals in total. The researchers categorized the appeals into types (commercial-free programming, funding cuts, premiums or gifts for donors). In addition to comparing the promotional tactics, the researchers also coded each appeal for its emotion value. Donors responded better to negative appeals—such as those that mentioned funding cuts to the station—than joyful ones.

The researchers note that shame can be powerful motivator. "Failing to help under these conditions often leads to shame, which is a powerful negative emotion that is experienced when there is an inconsistency between a person's actual and desired self."

"Paradoxically, it is by helping others that we derive self-benefits in the form of enhanced self-esteem and social approval—serving others connotes valued human traits including compassion, cooperativeness, and kindness," the authors conclude.

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Explore further: Opinion: Brexit and Trump are bad for our health

Related Stories

Opinion: Brexit and Trump are bad for our health

October 17, 2016

Politics in America and Europe may be increasingly isolationist, but deadly pathogens aren't. Votes for Brexit and Donald Trump may in fact be votes for worsening pandemics and fewer doctors and researchers to fight them.

Sperm donor offspring call for privacy changes

January 1, 2013

Hideaki Kato discovered his true identity by accident. During his medical training a decade ago, the now 39-year-old Japanese doctor was performing blood tests on family members when he learned something startling: his dad ...

US donors offer more aid in hopes of equality

June 23, 2014

(Phys.org)—In a forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research article, Penn State Smeal College of Business' Karen Winterich, assistant professor of marketing, and coauthor Yinlong Zhang of the University of Texas-San Antonio ...

Recommended for you

Science: Public interest high, literacy stable

October 28, 2016

While public interest in science continues to grow, the level of U.S. scientific literacy remains largely unchanged, according to a survey by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Experts uncover hidden layers of Jesus' tomb site

October 27, 2016

In the innermost chamber of the site said to be the tomb of Jesus, a restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where ...

Important ancient papyrus seized from looters in Israel

October 27, 2016

(Phys.org)—Eitan Klein, a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has announced that an important papyrus document dated to 2,700 years ago has been seized from a group of Palestinian looters who reportedly ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.