Report from Women’s Philanthropy Institute finds donors respond well to messages about rising giving trends; reveals gender differences
A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute explores how social norms—behaviors that are common, valued, and accepted by others—influence giving to women’s and girls’ causes, and whether gender differences exist. The report, Encouraging Giving to Women’s & Girls’ Causes: The Role of Social Norms, includes a number of new findings that can help nonprofit organizations apply a social norms approach to inspire more giving.
Previous research shows that there is a clear link between social norms and charitable giving: when you see someone donate, you’re more likely to donate yourself. The new report, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, affirms this link—when people believe that others are interested in giving to women’s and girls’ causes, they have greater intentions to donate to these causes themselves.
The report also uncovers an important gender difference: Men’s intent to give to women’s and girls’ causes is strongly tied to their perception of both men’s and women’s giving to these causes, whereas women’s intent to give is tied only to how they think other women give. This finding can help fundraisers think more strategically about how to reach male donors, who typically give less to women’s and girls’ causes.
One social norms approach appears to be particularly effective in encouraging giving from both male and female donors. The report found that messages focused on the rising popularity of women’s and girls’ causes, compared to messages about their current popularity, significantly increased people’s likelihood of donating to these causes.
“In the age of crowdfunding and Facebook Fundraisers, we are surrounded by examples of how giving inspires more giving. With this report, organizations can think more strategically about how to leverage social norms to engage new and current donors, from highlighting profiles of under-represented donor groups to emphasizing rising giving trends as part of their messaging. Women’s and girls’ organizations and fundraisers in general can use this research to take concrete action to increase their fundraising,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.
“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. Recognizing the social factors that drive donor behavior can help nonprofit organizations unlock more funding, often through small tweaks to strategy and messaging,” said Patrick Dwyer, assistant professor of philanthropic studies at the school and lead author of the report.
Key findings from Encouraging Giving to Women’s & Girls’ Causes: The Role of Social Norms include:
- Social norms and charitable giving are strongly linked: When people believe that others are interested in giving to women’s and girls’ causes, they have greater intentions to donate to these causes themselves.
- There is a gender difference in the link between social norms and charitable giving: Men’s giving to women’s and girls’ causes is strongly tied to how they think men and women give to those causes; women’s giving is strongly tied to how they think other women give.
- People’s donation intentions are higher when they receive social norms messages about rising levels of giving: Focusing on the rising popularity of women’s and girls’ causes increases people’s intentions to donate to those causes, compared to focusing on current levels of giving. This tactic is equally effective for male and female donors.
About the Women’s Philanthropy Institute
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) is part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. WPI increases understanding of women’s philanthropy through rigorous research and education, interpreting and sharing these insights broadly to improve philanthropy. By addressing significant and groundbreaking research questions and translating that research into increased understanding and improvements in practice, WPI helps to leverage new and expanded resources for the common good.
About the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy or “Like” us on Facebook.