A new study by NUI Galway has outlined the different types of people who post about charity on their social media, from “silent donors” who give and don’t say much to “dirty altruists” who most like to get attention.
The study, carried out in collaboration between NUIG and the University of Zaragoza in Spain, follows a wave of fundraising and charitable initiatives such as the Ice Bucket Challenge that has become major online and social media trends.
The researchers wanted to know if people who post on social media about charities are making charitable donations or if they care more about the action than the cause.
Fundraising and charity awareness campaigns have become even more tied to social media and online presence over the past year as COVID-19 has prevented or seriously hampered charities from conducting personal fundraisers.
Dr. Elaine Wallace of NUIG said, “While social media can be an excellent way to get your message across, there is some cynicism about these campaigns as people participate but not everyone donates. One critic even referred to these campaigns as the ‘bonanza of the narcissists’. “
“Conspicuous donation” was the term previously used to describe acts of very conspicuous charity, such as wearing a ribbon to show that you donated to a good cause.
But, like Dr. Wallace points out, “Nobody knows if our social media posts reflect what we are doing offline. We could post a selfie as part of a charity campaign to show others how good we are without ever making a donation. “
“Or we donate and we could also post online to make sure everyone on social media knows about it. And that begs the question, are we ‘dirty altruists’? “
The study looked at the views of 243 Irish and 296 US Facebook users who posted on Facebook through a charity and found four major types of people based on several factors.
Quiet donors: Not materialistic and without much interest in impressing others. You are not overly active on social media, but are very likely to donate and go quietly.
Friendly donors: Active and expressive online through a charity that has personal meaning to them. Don’t worry about getting noticed on Facebook or impressing others. You are likely donating time and money to a charity with personal significance.
Facebook expressives: Very noticeable in her online posts about charities and driven by the need to impress her friends. But they also have little intention of actually giving time or money, so their real-world behavior does not match what they post online.
Dirty Altruists: They have the most Facebook friends and the greatest desire to stand out, so be sure to post on popular topics. In the survey, they admitted that they primarily post to impress others, but they donate money offline.