Study outlines the behavior of online charity donors


New research has found four different types of people posting about charities on their social media pages.

The study – conducted by NUI Galway and the University of Zaragoza in Spain – was made in light of the increasing reliance of charities on online fundraising. The aim was to find out whether people were more interested in donating to a good cause or whether the focus was on the perception of their actions.

Researchers set out to examine attitudes towards viral campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge or #NoMakeUpSelfie, which aimed to raise funds for organizations linked to motor neuron disease and cancer research.

One of the study authors, Dr. Elaine Wallace said there is some cynicism about these fundraisers as many people participate, but not everyone donates.

While “physical” charity collectors often provide donors with a sticker or badge to show that they have donated money, less is known about whether social media posts reflect offline behavior.

The authors examined the views of 243 Irish and 296 US Facebook users who posted on the social network through a charity.

By analyzing their activities, their characteristics, their intention to donate, and their likelihood of being conspicuous when donating money, the study found four types of people that are common to both countries.

These ranged from people with little interest in impressing others to people with a high need to impress their friends on social networks.

The researchers set out to examine attitudes towards viral campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge mentioned above

“Quiet Donors” are said to be the least active on social media, but are likely to donate to charity. You are inconspicuous with your donations.

“Friendly donors” are active on Facebook. They tend to donate and post through charities that have deep personal meaning to them but “have less need for uniqueness” and aren’t concerned about getting noticed on the network.

The third group of donors known as “Facebook Expressives” are the most active and very noticeable in their online posts. They may be trying to stand out and impress their Facebook friends by referring to charities or because they believe it is socially acceptable. But they have little intention of donating money or time, which means their real-world behavior mismatches their online contributions.

People with the most Facebook friends – “dirty altruists” – have “a great need for uniqueness” and a high level of sensitivity to how others see their posts. Because of this, they are cautious about posting about popular articles and tend to post about charities in order to impress others.

Researchers say this group is also heavily materialistic, so their charitable contributions can be a form of conspicuous consumption. They donate offline and are therefore altruistic, but that is “tarnished” because it is partly motivated by their desire to make an impact on social media.

The study is published in the journal Emerald Insight.


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