Study examines why donors prefer to give time over money
Charitable donors prefer to give their time over money – even when it does less good for the cause – because they perceive it gives them more control over where their donation goes.
But nonprofits, although they need both donor time and money to be successful, find that financial donations have the most impact.
Researchers from the University of Notre Dame and Ohio State studying the underlying psychology of the phenomenon said they were initially surprised at the preference for donating time over money, in because of a consensus among academics and nonprofits that giving time is less effective for both giver and receiver.
But they also found that there are ways to increase donors’ perception of control over conflict resolution, primarily by giving them choices.
“Decades of research in consumer psychology and behavior show that choice is one of the most reliable ways to increase people’s perception of control.” says John Costello, assistant professor of marketing at the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame and co-author of the study.
The research, led by Costello with Selin Malkoc of Ohio State University, involved seven studies with more than 2,700 participants – some conducted online and others in a behavioral lab. The researchers designed and tested several strategies for generating donations to determine which was the most effective.
Studies have shown that altruistic motives – for example, how much a contribution helps the cause – play a key motivating role in giving. But donation decisions are also influenced by the donor’s own psychological needs, particularly the desire to feel in control of their actions.
Costello said charities can play to this by slightly changing their marketing language to increase perceived control over donations. For example, the study found that asking donors to “spend” their money rather than “give” increased donors’ sense of control.
He said organizations that want to increase volunteering should also take steps to minimize any sense that donated time is being controlled by outside forces.
The full study, “Why are donors more generous with time than with money?” The Role of Perceived Control Over Donations on Charitable Giving,” will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.
Anne Stych is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and content manager covering science, technology, retail and more. She writes for American City Business Journals’ BizWomen. This story originally appeared on Ministry Watch.