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The competitive effect of online giving

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The competitive effect of online giving

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In addition to the plethora of crowdfunding websites and platforms that have emerged in recent years, there has also been a considerable growth in online fundraising sites in recent years.

I’m sure most of you have encountered such sites, or even used them yourselves.  A recent study has some interesting insights into the dynamics of such sites that may have some crossover implications for other crowd based financing sites.

The study found that men are much more likely to donate larger sums if they see other men doing the same.  What’s more, they’re also likely to give more if the person raising the money is an attractive woman.

Competition in fundraising

The authors believe this phenomenon is likely to be unconscious and could possibly have evolutionary underpinnings as we (men) seek to prove our wealth and generosity in the face of competition from other men.

“We looked at why people behave generously in real-world situations, even when there is no obvious benefit to them in doing so. We found a remarkably strong response with men competing to advertise generosity to attractive women, but didn’t see women reacting in a similar way, showing competitive helping is more a male than female trait,” they say.

The sums are far from insignificant either.  The study found that donations would often rise by around £10 if there were large donations from other donors.  When the fundraiser was an attractive woman however, and men started giving heartily, this saw a rise of £28 in donations from other men.

“Fundraising pages provide a fascinating real-life laboratory for looking at charity donations. Previously, we saw how donors responded to how much other people had given. Now we see that the response depends – albeit sub-consciously – on the fundraiser’s attractiveness. On a practical level, there are implications for how fundraisers can raise more money for charities. To London marathon fundraisers, I would say get your generous friends to donate early and make sure you put a good picture up, preferably one in which you are smiling!,” the authors say.

We’ve seen previously that there is a big social proof element in crowdfunding, with heavy early investment often the key to successful fundraising.

This study highlights that there may be an evolutionary element to things as well.  Whilst we may donate to good causes in the belief that our actions are selfless, the study highlights that they may nonetheless have a degree of self-serving underpinning them.

All of which is maybe food for thought the next time you’re looking to raise money online.

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