Research Finds Different Charity Messages Resonate with Democrats and Republicans


May 31, 2012; Source: Rice University

An upcoming article in the International Journal of Research in Marketing: Special Issue on Consumer Identities describes how a potential donor’s political beliefs influence their response to the framing of a charity’s appeal for funds. Both liberals and conservatives can be willing to give to a particular cause, according to the studies, but how a charity presents its values and priorities in support of that cause affects who gives and how much.

Rice University Professor Vikas Mittal, co-author of a research paper on this subject, says that donations to a specific charity by Republicans and Democrats are strongly affected by their perceptions of the charity’s alignment with each party’s respective moral foundations. Republicans’ moral foundations are embedded in respect for authority and traditions, loyalty and purity; Democrats’ moral foundations are rooted in equality and protection from harm.

This research goes beyond the standard “Who cares about the environment?” and “Who cares about children?” prospecting and screening that many charities perform. In addition, it helps fundraisers get past the “everyone is our market” viewpoint that often leads to disappointing campaign results.

By identifying and owning how an organization pursues its mission, and by identifying the values that the organization communicates to the public, it becomes easier for fundraising appeals—appeals that align with donors’ values—to be crafted. “A very simple repositioning of the charity’s description so that it aligns with a person’s political identity can increase donation intentions two- or threefold,” said Yinlong Zhang, study co-author and associate professor of marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

There are two challenges presented to charities by this study. First, they need to be candid in their identification and communication of the values that support their charitable mission.  Second, they need to avoid the temptation to create one appeal for Republicans and another for Democrats. Eventually, the different messages will be shared in the wider community, risking donor confusion or distrust of the charity’s sincerity about its motivations. –Michael Wyland

  • bruce bonkowski

    i right now upset with all the charities there not doing what they preached .there suppose to help the needy . how that i live in michigan . i see trucks and trucks from every charites i know here picking up clothing firinture and other items . but i am myself unemployed and need to get a few t-shirts for the summer . i felt i dont have much . savationarmy wants $17 a shirt meijers selling new shirts for $20 no $ 3 4 dollars shirts pants the same high prices even ask for a job but i was accused of a felony (which was dropped but still on my record ) they wont hire me drunks drug addicts even prostitues there hire . the store were small before 8 stores here now are the size of meijers . i seen some antiques (i used to colect ) the managers are on e-bay and picing them that way . but go to the sunday service they say there helping . i bell ring for them 2 year ago and then was terimated because they had high school kids doing volunteers works for credit . the electronic are not really checked and if say you bought a tv took it home and 2 days later it quit even a store give you a 30 the army tellyou npo return and then says you given to a goo cause . the stock holders are not living modest they like the rest of the world i think it time to clean slate all the goverment the states and the dity dealing with the big companies i own my own compny and made $38,000 and i was ok why cant others