Giving to charity: Why do we donate more money to individuals when they are members of a group?

Aug 15, 2012

When charity recipients seem to belong to a cohesive group, donors will make stronger judgments about the victims, which leads to greater concern and increased donations if these judgments are positive, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"One of the most puzzling aspects of charitable giving is the relative meagerness of donations to large numbers of 'statistical' victims in contrast to the generosity shown to a single identified victim," write authors Robert W. Smith (University of Michigan), David Faro (London Business School), and Katherine A. Burson (University of Michigan). "A solution to this problem is to make multiple victims seem like a single, unified group."

The authors tracked funding activity on Kiva.org, a micro-financing website where lenders support groups of whose pictures are prominently displayed on the site. Independent ratings showed that some of the pictures on the website seemed to portray very tight groups while others rather loose groups. The authors found that groups that looked unified were more quickly funded. In other studies, the authors discovered that donations to help poor children were higher when the children were described as members of the same family.

However, the opposite is true when consumers are asked to donate to groups they may not view positively. Another study asked consumers to make donations to benefit child prisoners with poor living conditions. Those who read about the child prisoners that seemed unified had more negative and gave them less money than those who read about the non-unified but otherwise identical child prisoners.

"Perceived results in stronger judgments of victims. Victims are viewed more favorably when they belong to a group with positive traits, triggering greater feelings of concern and higher donations, whereas the opposite is true for victims sharing ," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Why plants in the office make us more productive

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Personal relationships increase donations

Aug 22, 2008

People tend to be more sympathetic to people suffering from the same misfortune as a friend. But friendship with a victim does not make people generally more sympathetic, according to the authors of a new study in the Journal ...

Cause marketing lowers charitable donations

Mar 31, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cause marketing -- when firms share proceeds from the sale of products with a social cause -- reduces charitable giving by consumers, says a researcher at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. ...

Recommended for you

Modern population boom traced to pre-industrial roots

7 hours ago

The foundation of the human population explosion, commonly attributed to a sudden surge in industrialization and public health during the 18th and 19th centuries, was actually laid as far back as 2,000 years ...

Researcher looks at the future of higher education

7 hours ago

Most forecasts about the future of higher education have focused on how the institutions themselves will be affected – including the possibility of less demand for classes on campus and fewer tenured faculty members as ...

Now we know why it's so hard to deceive children

9 hours ago

Daily interactions require bargaining, be it for food, money or even making plans. These situations inevitably lead to a conflict of interest as both parties seek to maximise their gains. To deal with them, ...

User comments : 0