Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, University of Chicago and Sungkyunkwan University could help charities by better classifying potential donors and approaching them the right way. The research reveals that people who see the 'glass as half empty' may be more willing to contribute to a common goal if they already identify with it.
According to the studies, individuals who already care a lot (highly identify) with a cause are more likely to financially support the cause if a solicitation is framed by how much is still needed (for example, "we still need 50,000 dollars to reach our goal"). However, if individuals care very little prior to a solicitation (low identify), they are more likely to contribute if they knew how much of the goal had already been met (for example, "we've raised 50,000 dollars toward our goal").
"We believe our findings offer organizations several strategies to increase volunteering and donations," said Henderson.
"Our findings also imply that during times when prior contributions or donations by others are particularly salient in the public eye, organizations may take the opportunity to promote philanthropy by approaching those who identify less with the beneficiaries or with the helping group, thereby expanding their circle of potential donors," added Henderson.
Five studies measured contributions to goals centered on idea generation and helping victims of various disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti, wildfires in Southern California and riots in Kenya.
"People ask themselves one of two questions when deciding whether to invest in one personal goal versus another," said Henderson.
"'Is the goal worth pursuing?' This may signal to people who didn't already care that it's something worth paying attention to and to get onboard. Or for people who already care: 'Is this progressing at a pace I find sufficient?' If not, it may be a signal to jump in and get involved, so this effort they care about doesn't sink,' added Henderson.
The study will be published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.