Chrystal Houston, May 10th, 2010
Karen Winterich is one of the few people who is excited when a natural disaster occurs. When hurricane winds blow, fault lines shift, and floodwaters rise to wreak havoc on local residents, it’s the perfect opportunity for her to track data for one of her main research interests: philanthropic giving. In the face of human tragedy, what motivates people to give? Are there differences in how men and women perceive and respond to need? Bottom line: what can nonprofits do to increase giving?
Winterich, an assistant professor of marketing, was on the phone with other research collaborators Vikas Mittal of Rice University and Karl Aquino of University of British Columbia, as soon as news of the January earthquake in Haiti hit the airwaves, making plans for studies to conduct. Now, a few months later, Winterich is beginning to examine the data. Her findings delve deeper into her earlier work, which indicates there is a great divide in the ways that men and women give philanthropically.
Winterich surveyed a national panel of adults about their attitudes and actions relating to the Haiti relief effort. She asked panel members: how beneficial is a charity to society? How beneficial is it to society for people to give specifically to Haiti relief? Additional questions gauged a variety of factors, including respondent’s levels of internal and symbolic moral identity, to determine which factors influenced respondents’ giving levels.
Winterich found that regardless of symbolic moral identity, women tended to perceive there was a greater societal benefit from giving to Haiti than did men.
Men tended only to perceive donations to Haiti were beneficial when respondents were characterized by high levels of symbolic moral identity.
This perception was consistent with participants’ likelihood to give: regardless of symbolic moral identity, women were more likely to give to the Haiti relief effort, while men were more likely to give only when their level of symbolic moral identity was higher.
To put it another way: women, whether they cared if others saw them as compassionate, generous, or pro-social, were more likely to agree that giving to the Haiti relief effort was a beneficial thing to doâ€”and were more likely to do it. Men were much more likely to feel that it was a beneficial act to society, and to give, only if they were interested in others’ good opinion.
This is significant, as it corresponds with other research, which indicates that men are more likely to donate when the act is seen as “heroic” ((Eagly and Crowley, 1986)). Though this study did not specifically examine the importance of recognition, Winterich says recognition may motivate giving among men more so than among women. What does this mean for nonprofit organizations?
Recognition is key, says Winterich. NPOs must inform people before they give that they will be recognized for their contribution, as those with high internal moral identity will give regardless of recognition, but people with high symbolic moral identity are more likely to give if the act is observed by others. Winterich has several studies which support this role of recognition in motivating donations and volunteering among those who otherwise may not be motivated to give.
“There are people who are not internally motivated to give. They have a lower internal moral identity. It’s just not part of their private self to be motivated pro-socially,” says Winterich, who is quick to point out that these people may still give generously to charities, but simply have a different motivation.
“It really benefits nonprofit organizations to offer that public recognition,” as they are going to then capture both the high internal and high symbolic moral identity givers, as well as men (potentially) in increasing quantities.
Recognition doesn’t have to be large but it must be advertised on the front end to be effectiveâ€”otherwise those that are interested in giving for the sake of recognition won’t be as likely to give.
“If NPOs think they’re recognizing donors, but are only doing so after the fact then they’re missing out on a potential donor segment that needs to know about the recognition in order to motivate the donation,” says Winterich.
This research is included in a working paper, coauthored by Winterich, Karl Aquino, and Vikas Mittal.
Categories: Research Notes