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  • Writer's pictureDr Cassandra Chapman

Are charitable people universally generous?



Who is most likely to give to charity?

If you ask a professional fundraiser, they will probably tell you their best prospects are women, older people, and the religious.

There is plenty of evidence to support such ideas. Generally speaking, women are more likely to donate money to charity than men are. People are more likely to give as they age. And people who identify as religious are more likely to be donors and also give more on average than secular people do.

But are such donors universally generous?

Much of the research on charity looks at overall patterns of giving. In other words, research typically asks who gives to any charity and how much donors give to all supported charities.

I’m more interested in which charities people support. And why.

In a recent series of studies on charitable giving, my colleagues and I collected data from 675 donors to evaluate whether demographics not only explain if someone gives, but also which charities they support.

Our results suggest (as we expected) that people do not give indiscriminately. Instead, they show preferences toward charities that align with the priorities of their social groups.

Older donors are more likely to likely to support religious charities. This may be because older people are more likely to attend religious services, and therefore have higher exposure to asks for religious causes and also spend time with people who also give.

Older people give more to health charities as well. Given the increasing health problems associated with age, older donors and their social groups are more likely to benefit from health-related giving.

Religious donors are more likely to support religious, welfare, and international charities but are less likely to support animal causes. These targets align with priorities of religious groups. In particular, most of our respondents were Christian. The Christian faith (similarly to many religions) promotes giving to help the vulnerable and needy and also prioritises humans over animals.

Politically conservative donors are less likely than progressive donors to support international causes. Such patterns of giving may reflect the higher rates of nationalism commonly found among conservatives.

Though only a first step towards understanding how donors select the charities they support, these findings suggest that different identities may motivate support for different kinds of charities. Donors are therefore not universally generous, but support causes that align with their priorities and the priorities of the important social groups they belong to.

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This article was originally published on the Social Change Lab blog (19 November 2018).

Read the full article:

Chapman, Louis, & Masser, B. M. (2018). Identifying (our) donors: Towards a social psychological understanding of charity selection in Australia. Psychology & Marketing, 35(12), 980-989.

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