People with fewer friends on Facebook raise more money for charity than those with lots of connections, reveals a new study.
The study by an economist at the University of Warwick found a negative correlation between the size of a group and the amount of money given by each donor - with the average contribution by each person dropping by two pence for every extra connection someone had on Facebook.
According to the researcher, the phenomenon of 'free-riding' on information sharing is the main driver behind the findings - when people are part of a larger social group, they feel less of a need to share information about well performing charities because they're expecting other friends to share the information; but this concept of free-riding also extends to giving in social groups - friends expect other friends to stump up most of the cash and so they don't bother themselves.
It was also found that large social groups are less likely to share information about charitable causes when compared to those who are part of smaller circles - and that this results in less fundraising success.
The researchers said that doing something physically demanding and asking a small group of friends for their support is much more effective than relying on donations from lots of people for what would be perceived as a relatively less exerting activity.
Although there could be many reasons for these outcomes, the research supports the idea that motives for giving in online platforms, such as JustGiving.com, could be driven by "relational warm-glow," that is, People are motivated by the idea of helping their friends achieve their fundraising goals - it makes the fundraiser feel good and this in turn impacts on the people who've made the donations.
The study was published in International Economic Review.