Identity Differences in Donations

There are many factors that affect a donor’s decision to give to a nonprofit. A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research examined the way a donor’s social identification and its relationship to the social identification of previous donors affects the likelihood of donation.

What happens when a potential donor learns about previous contributions? Are potential donors more likely to give when they know the identity of those who have given in the past?

  • During an on-air funding drive for a radio station some callers were told that the person before them of a different gender gave $240 while other callers were told that the person before them of the same gender gave $240. Callers that were told that the person before them of the same gender gave money were more likely to donate.
  • When potential donors find out the contributions of previous donors, their contributions are about $20 more than if they did not find out the contributions of previous donors.

How can this information be applied to the way your organization does fundraising?

  • donateWhen speaking with potential donors, reference the contributions of past donors making sure to include how their identities are similar.
  • When sending fundraising letters, include information about the identities of those who have contributed in the past so potential donors feel a connection to the cause through their social identities.
  • When referencing past donors, remember not to give any information that would give away the exact identity the donors to others. Give demographic information or personal testimony, but do not give names or exact details unless you have permission to do so.

Do you already include information about past contributions when requesting donations? How will this information impact the way you do fundraising in the future?

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Jen Shang, Americus Reed II and Rachel Croson. “Identity Congruency Effects on Donations”. Journal of Marketing Research.

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