Research & Insights

Make it Personal to Increase Support for Your Cause

To increase connection to your cause, ask people to get personal.

When people give something personal – like their name in the form of a signature, their personal property or their blood – they are more likely to feel generous and dedicated to the cause, according to new research by Minjung Koo and Ayelet Fishbach.

These results come from a series of experiments published in the May 2016 issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In one experiment, participants were asked to purchase cookies made by people with disabilities to support a company (WECAN) that hires people who are differently-abled.

After buying the cookies, participants received an envelope with a message about the program. Some participants saw a message that said the proceeds of the sale were donated anonymously to WECAN, while others saw a message with a place to sign their name as a supporter. The participants then filled out a survey indicating how generous and kind they felt as people and how committed they were to WECAN.

Participants who signed their name felt more generous than the people who donated anonymously. Participants who signed also said that the cause was more important to them than the participants who were not given the option to sign.

A second experiment asked participants to endorse a petition for building schools inside children’s hospitals. Some participants were asked to sign their name to the petition, while others were told they could support the petition anonymously. The participants were then asked questions about their generosity and commitment to helping sick children.

Finally, participants were asked to continue helping sick children by signing another petition asking for government subsidies for the schools. Some participants were given the option to sign immediately, others were asked to participate the following day when the petition went live online.

Again, participants who signed their name felt more generous and more committed to the cause of helping sick children than the participants who indicated their support anonymously.

Participants who signed were also more likely to support the second petition, even when told they would have to wait a day to sign it. While both groups of participants – signatory and anonymous – were equally likely to sign the petition immediately, anonymous supporters were much less likely to agree to sign the next day.

“When soliciting donations, organizations often offer the option to remain anonymous to lure people to participate,” the researchers note. “Our studies find [that]…giving one’s name is actually an effective tool in building commitment to a cause.”

Social Psychological and Personality Science

Minjung Koo, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, South Korea
Ayelet Fishbach, University of Chicago

Posted: May 10, 2016
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