Research & Insights

Make It Personal: Identifying with a Charity May Increase Donations

Charity work may be about creating a better world for everyone, but when it comes to boosting donations for an individual organization, a little bit of competition can help.

These findings come from a study done in China conducted by Jundong Hou, C. Clifton Eason and Chi Zhang and were published in a 2014 issue of the journal Social Behavior and Personality. The researchers found that competition between nonprofit organizations (NPOs) for resources, such as time and money, can encourage donations by increasing how much people identify with a charity they support.

The study involved 205 survey respondents from universities in China. The respondents filled out a survey that had them think about a nonprofit they care about and evaluated their attitudes and intentions toward it. The survey asked participants how much they agreed with statements like, “There is a competition between [my favorite nonprofit] and others” for scarce resources. Participants were also asked how much they identified with their charitable organization, responding to statements such as, “When someone criticizes [my favorite nonprofit], it feels like a personal insult” and “When I talk about [my favorite nonprofit], I usually say ‘we’ rather than ‘they.’”

Finally, participants were asked about their donation behaviors, including volunteering and monetary contributions.

The researchers found a link between feelings of competition between organizations, level of identification with organizations and intentions to donate. “NPO competition directly influenced the ability of those individuals to identify with the various NPOs, which, in turn, influenced the charitable intentions and behaviors of those individuals.”

This has big implications for people who do outreach for NPOs. “By demonstrating that donations are strongly related to identification, it can be inferred that the advertising efforts of NPOs should be focused on creating a distinctive identity for the NPO with which members of their target audience can relate,” the researchers note. “Marketing campaigns should be designed with an eye toward differentiation, and emphasis on distinctive qualities of the NPO, and messages that highlight the NPO as much as the beneficiaries of its work.”

Social Behavior and Personality

Jundong Hou, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and China University of Geosciences
Clifton Eason, Samford University and The University of Mississippi
Chi Zhang, The University of Mississippi

Posted: December 9, 2015
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