Social Norms Shape Giving to Women's and Girls' Causes, Study Finds

Social Norms Shape Giving to Women's and Girls' Causes, Study Finds

Social norms — behaviors that are common, valued, and accepted by others — influence charitable giving to women's and girls' causes, a report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on an online survey of more than twenty-five hundred U.S. residents, the report, Encouraging Giving to Women's & Girls' Causes: The Role of Social Norms (24 pages, PDF), found that when respondents believed others were interested in giving to women's and girls' causes, they were more likely to say they would donate to those causes themselves. According to the report, nearly nine out of ten respondents (89 percent) who believed others were "highly interested" in women's and girls' causes said they were likely to donate to those causes themselves over the next year, compared with 45 percent who were likely to give when they thought others were "somewhat interested" and 6 percent who were likely to donate when they thought others were "not interested at all."

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study also found that the link between social norms and giving to women's and girls' causes is stronger for men than for women. While men who believed that others were "not interested at all" in giving to women's and girls' causes were significantly less likely than women who believed the same to say they intended to give (1 percent vs. 23 percent), as men's perceptions of others' interest in giving increased, the percentage saying they would donate rose more sharply (from 1 percent to 91 percent) than it did for women (23 percent to 87 percent). 

In addition, both men and women were more likely to express an intention to donate if they received messages that focused on the rising popularity of women's and girls' causes — "Less than half of donors give to women's and girls' charities, but the number of donors is getting bigger and bigger each year" (58 percent) —  than if they received messages about current giving levels — "Less than half of donors give to women's and girls' charities" (51 percent) — although those who received no message about the popularity of a cause were just as likely to say they would give (59 percent). 

"In the age of crowdfunding and Facebook Fundraisers, we are surrounded by examples of how giving inspires more giving," said Debra J. Mesch, the Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "With this report, organizations can think more strategically about how to leverage social norms to engage new and current donors, from highlighting profiles of underrepresented donor groups to emphasizing rising giving trends as part of their messaging. Women's and girls' organizations and fundraisers in general can use this research to take concrete action to increase their fundraising."