Study Reveals Why Some Of Us Donate To Charity While Others Don't

Posted on: 31st March 2016

Ever wondered why some people are always dishing out to charity, and others can't seem to find the time? A new study has revealed people who have a high moral identity, and are empathetic with a particular charitable cause, are more likely to give back to their charity of choice.

The study was published in The Journal of Consumer Research, and asked a number of simple questions. The two main questions were, "Who is more likely to give money to charity?", and, "How do those people choose which charities to donate to?"

Not surprisingly, the first answer revealed people with strong moral values give more money to charities. However, the second answer proved much more complicated.

The responses of participants depended on how donors perceived a certain cause, and whether or not donors empathized with the recipients of the charities. Put bluntly, a potential donor's perception of a charity was based on whether they considered the recipients responsible for their own plight.

Researchers asked volunteers for donations to various charities across four separate studies. However, the difference between those charities, and others such as World Vision, was they were organizations working with those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

In other words, the recipients were considered responsible for their own situation. As such, volunteers were less likely to give to those specific charities, as the recipients contradicted their own set of moral values, and idea of what was right or wrong.

However, this changed when researchers asked volunteers about their own actions, particularly anything in their past they considered wrong or immoral. When confronted with this question, the volunteers' perceptions changed, and they empathized more with the recipients. As such, they became more likely to donate more to those kinds of charities.

The results of this study could  be beneficial for charities focussed on people who are partially responsible for their own unfortunate circumstances. That is, by creating empathy in their marketing messages, these charitable organizations are able to reach more people who are inclined to offer financial aid to those people.

“Our results can help non-profits be more cautious when describing the causes and beneficiaries they are supporting,” the study's authors state.

“Donation appeals should specify or imply low responsibility of the charity recipients or, alternatively, seek to elicit empathy to increase donations."

So next time you're picking a charity to donate to, why not appeal to your sense of empathy, as well as morality? You might find a whole new perspective, and help even more people in need!

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