May 16, 2011

American Women Are Stronger Believers Than Men in Power of Supporting Causes

New study finds women believe that supporting causes creates sense of purpose and meaning in life

American women are strong believers in the power of individuals to make a difference by supporting causes, while American men are more likely to view supporting causes as a fad, according to new data released Monday by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Georgetown University's Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC).

The findings are part of the larger Dynamics of Cause Engagement study, conducted among American adults in late 2010 by Ogilvy’s Social Marketing group and CSIC. The study explored trends in cause involvement and the roles of a variety of activities in fostering engagement with social issues.

Besides believing that everyone can make a difference by supporting causes, American women are more likely than men to believe that supporting causes creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life, makes them feel good about themselves and makes them feel like part of a community, according to a statement by Ogilvy and CSIC. The study found that 45% of Americans are actively involved with supporting causes, and women make up a significantly larger part of this group than men.

These results echo a recent studyby Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, which found women significantly more likely than men to give to almost every type of charitable cause.

The Ogilvy/CSIC study found that men and women generally agree on which particular causes they choose to support. For both, feeding the hungry and supporting U.S. troops rank among the highest, and gender-related health issues like breast cancer and prostate cancer are significantly more likely to be supported by women and men, respectively. In addition, survey results indicate that women are more compelled to support youth-related causes like bullying and childhood obesity, while men are more likely to support the Tea Party movement.

Women and men also tend to agree on the ways in which they most often support their chosen causes. For both, more historically prominent ways of engaging with causes top the list, including donating money, talking to others, and learning more about the issues and impacts. Women, however, are significantly more likely than men to get involved by donating clothing and other personal items, and volunteering their time in support of causes.

When it comes to social media, the study found that women are more likely than men to recognize the role that sites such as Facebook can play in facilitating cause involvement. Two-thirds of women believe that social networking sites can increase visibility for causes, and 60% believe they allow people to support causes more easily. Consequently, women are more likely to support causes through promotional social media activities (e.g., joining a cause group on Facebook, posting a logo to a social profile, contributing to a blog) than men.

Women also turn to social media as a source of cause information more often than men—though for both men and women, this lags far behind traditional TV and print media sources and personal relationships.

Current perceptions of social media are not entirely positive, though. Nearly three-quarters of men and women agree that emails about causes can sometimes feel like spam, and about half of both populations admit that they get too many cause-related emails now;everybody, they feel, "likes" causes on Facebook, and this does not really mean anything.

Practitioners should be wary of these indicators and ensure strategic uses of digital tools in order to avoid unintentionally contributing to "cause fatigue," the statement said.

Cause marketers often target the female demographic with campaigns, and survey results show why: American women are significantly more likely than men to show their support of a cause by purchasing products or services from companies that support the cause. Moreover, women are more likely to learn about causes through corporate partner or sponsor promotions, including advertisements, product packaging, and in-store displays.

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