Walking in their shoes: How fundraisers can boost donations

February 11, 2014

When natural disaster strikes, calls for help are broadcast on television and across the Internet. Despite being exposed to the needs of widespread relief organizations, only a small percentage of us actually follow through by making a financial contribution. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the more connected we feel with the people needing our help, the more likely we are to donate.

"Our thought is that people who act more independently might not necessarily be more benevolent than people who are more connected to others within their own society. We argue that a person's financial generosity depends more on how they associate themselves with the group in need rather than their expected cultural behavior," write authors Rod Duclos (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and Alixandra Barasch (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania).

In a series of experiments conducted in both the United States and in China, the authors manipulated how participants felt about their sense of independence before asking them to donate to a charity that benefited victims of a real-life natural disaster.

Results of one study showed that, when asked to aid earthquake victims, Chinese university students made to think/feel independently were neither more nor less willing to help survivors from the nearby Sichuan province or from Haiti. In contrast, students made to think/feel connected to the Sichuan victims exhibited a stronger willingness to donate to relief efforts in China than in Haiti.

"Our research can help nonprofits better target their fundraising efforts towards a particular demographic or group of people. For example, when selecting photographs for ads, aid organizations should try and match recipient and donor profiles so as to highlight the fact that they are from the same in-group," the authors conclude. "Conversely, reminders of how donors are different from the people in need should be avoided, particularly in highly-interdependent societies."

Explore further: Survey: Most Haiti text donors have given since

More information: Rod Duclos and Alixandra Barasch. "Prosocial Behavior in Intergroup Relations: How Donor Self-Construal and Recipient Group-Membership Shape Generosity." Journal of Consumer Research: June 2014.

Related Stories

Survey: Most Haiti text donors have given since

January 12, 2012

(AP) -- The massive earthquake that devastated Haiti two years ago prompted an outpouring of charitable donations and propelled a new way of giving - through text messages - into the public eye.

Recommended for you

The culinary habits of the Stonehenge builders

October 13, 2015

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


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.