Research has demonstrated a clear link between social norms — behaviors that are common, valued and accepted by others — and charitable giving: When you see someone donate, you yourself are more likely to donate.
Charities that can leverage this insight stand to increase their donations. But what about off-the-radar causes, those relating to women and girls, for instance?
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy released a report on Tuesday that explores how social norms influence giving to women’s and girls’ causes.
The research, which was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, showed that when people believe that others are interested in giving to women’s and girls’ causes, they are more inclined to donate to these causes themselves.
Differences exist in how social norms influence men’s and women’s giving to those causes. According to the report, men’s donations are strongly tied to how they think men and women give to them, whereas women’s giving is strongly tied to how they think other women give.
The report said focusing on the growing popularity of women’s and girls’ causes increases people’s intentions to donate to them, compared with focusing on current levels of giving. This tactic is equally effective for male and female donors, it said.
“This report is just one example of how we can use insights and research methodologies from social psychology to better understand why and how people give,” Patrick Dwyer, assistant professor of philanthropic studies at the Lilly School and lead author of the report, said in a statement.
“Recognizing the social factors that drive donor behavior can help nonprofit organizations unlock more funding, often through small tweaks to strategy and messaging.”
The report’s findings came from a study of some 2,500 respondents on the online survey platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. Respondents, whose average age was 35, all live or lived in the U.S. Fifty-six percent were men, and 44% women.