Academic News You Can Use: Encourage Fundraisers to Share Personal Stories

A study by University of Pennsylvania researchers suggests that "thon" fundraisers should stress personal connections to the cause in their appeals, reports the RWRFC's academic advisor, Professor Michal Strahilevitz of Golden Gate University.

Prior work has shown that people are more likely to volunteer and/or contribute to causes that directly affect them or their loved ones (Small and Simonsohn 2008). Given this, it appears that people asked to sponsor someone who they know has been directly affected by the cause (e.g., the sister of a breast cancer survivor), are more likely to contribute greater amounts.

This research offers several lessons for event managers: 1)Encourage your athletes to share their personal connection to the cause (e.g., how they or someone they care about has been affected) may help them to raise more sponsorship dollars. (2) Regardless of whether or not your athletes have such personal connections, they should target people who do have a relationship to the cause. (3) In targeting those that are not "victims", it can be effective to use personal stories about "victims" to reduce the distance potential donors feel from such people.

These insights are drawn from a 2008 paper authored by Deborah A. Small, and Uri Simonsohn entitled “Friends of Victims: Personal Experience and Prosocial Behavior" that can be found in the Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 35, No. 3: 532-542.

About the Researchers:

Deborah Small is the Wroe Alderson Term Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School. Her research focuses on judgment and decision making in many domains, including charitable decisions.

Uri Simonsohn is an assistant professor at the Wharton School. His research focuses on consumer behavior and behavioral decision making.

About the Reporter:

Michal Ann Strahilevitz is an associate professor of marketing at Golden Gate University. She does research on the psychology of giving, motives for generosity and cause related marketing.
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