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When people learn that a charitable contribution they earmarked for a specific project was used for another cause, they feel betrayed—and often punish the charity, new research from Washington State University indicates.
Those donors were less likely to give money to the charity in the future or do volunteer work for the organization. They also were more likely to say negative things about the charity, according to the research published in the January 2020 issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research and available online.
Findings - Contribution - Worthwhile - Cause - Jeff
The findings held true even when their contribution was directed to another worthwhile cause, said Jeff Joireman, a professor in the Department of Marketing and International Business at WSU's Carson College of Business.
"The whole idea that a charity could activate a sense of betrayal is quite novel," said Joireman, who worked with research collaborators from Pacific Lutheran University, HEC Montreal, University of Wyoming and WSU Ph.D. student Pavan Munaganti.
Fraud - Donor - Money - Joireman - Expectations
"This wasn't fraud or embezzlement—the donor's money was still being used for good," Joireman said. "But because the expectations were so high, they were upset when their donation was redirected."
The study comes amid the increasing popularity of donor-directed charities.
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Instead of giving to a traditional charity that supports multiple causes, many people prefer to specify that their contributions will support a new well in a Tanzanian village, or help a Costa Rican entrepreneur open a coffee business. As a result, contributions to donor-directed charities such as Donors Choose and Kiva have risen by 700 percent over the past decade.
The research involved three studies conducted at WSU's Center for Behavioral Business Research. Participants made $1 donations to specific projects in rural areas of India or Peru, then they were told the charity used their money for...
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