Here at Direct to Donor, we have a tradition – every 100th post anniversary, we take a look back at some past posts and update them with new information. “Tradition” may be a bit strong, since we will hit 200 posts this week, but we’re working on it.
Back in February, we took a look at how women and men donate differently. TL; DR? Women generally donate more and more often. Women respond best to social proof, clear injustice, and efficacy appeals; aligned self-interest worked best for men and worst for women.
However, there is a new study that may shed different light on the gender* dynamics of social proof. In the original study, here’s the phrase researchers used to try to get men and women to donate in the social proof condition:
“When you give to CRP, you join your fellow citizens in helping to fight poverty. The poor are now being helped by record numbers of charitable givers across the country. You can join the movement to eliminate poverty with your contribution to CRP.”
As you can see, this doesn’t mention a specific amount – the social proof comes in the decision to donate, rather than the amount to donate. The researchers in this case found that women donated more often to this type of appeal.
The reason I go through this set up is that there is also a study out that indicates something different. This study from Croson, Handy, and Shang looked at a radio station call-in scenario. Subjects were told, after making a $25 gift, that someone else had just donated either $10 or $50.
Croson and Shang have looked at this type of data in the past (here and here), finding that this type of social pressure/pull can significantly increase the amount given by a person.
Here, they asked subjects how much they think and average station listener would contribute and how much they would contribute in the next year.
It turns out that social norms did influence contributions, but almost entirely from men. So men were more likely to use this social information to inform the amount they gave.
So, these sound like two opposing studies – one indicating that social norms work better on women; the other indicating they work better on men.
However, I think there is a way to reconcile these results. It would appear that social norms – how a community is banding together to help fight poverty – are more influential for women than men when it comes to deciding whether to make a donation. However, when the time comes to actually make the donation, women will keep their own counsel about how much to give more than men, who are more influenced by outside views.
This is an interesting area of research; I hope we can get research that is able to show a clearer direction. In the meantime, I would keep appealing to men and men alone with enlightened self-interest and use social proofing as a strategy to anchor men to higher gift amounts.
* Technically, it’s sex dynamics, since the study appears to have looked only at a male-female dichotomy, but “Sex Dynamics” sounds like a book you would get on Kindle so no one would see you looking at the cover.