The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

How Social Norms Affect Giving to Women’s and Girls’ Causes

Cover of Encouraging Giving to Women's and Girls' Causes: The Role of Social NormsFrom wearing pink to hosting parties or posting on social media, people everywhere are celebrating #InternationalWomensDay. Social movements like this can inspire people to give to related causes and increase charitable contributions to them. A recent report by the Woman’s Philanthropy Institute presents insights into how the giving behaviors of others, as defined by social norms, influence donation behavior, focusing on the particular challenges that women-focused organizations face in courting male donors.

Encouraging Giving to Women’s and Girls’ Causes: The Role of Social Norms examines the survey responses of more than 2,500 people who were asked questions such as “How interested do you think others are, or will be in the future, in giving to women’s and girls’ causes?” In analyzing the responses, the report considers the following questions:

  1. What role do social norms play in charitable giving to women’s causes and does this role differ by gender?

  2. What types of social norms information can encourage giving to these causes?

  3. Can social norms messages increase giving from donors that typically give less often to these causes, such as men?

Key Findings

  • Social norms and charitable giving are strongly connected.
    Responses showed that an increase in the perception of others’ intent to give to women’s and girls’ causes was linked to the personal likelihood of giving to these causes.

  • But this connection was stronger for men.
    Where previous research has shown that women tend to give more to these causes overall, this study found that men’s giving decisions are more heavily influenced by social norms than women’s. As men’s perception that others had a greater intention of giving to these causes increased, so did their own intentions to donate.

  • Intent to donate increases with messaging related to rising levels of giving.
    By comparing current social norms with future ones, research found that people are more likely to give when they believe that giving is expected to increase in the future.

  • Future-focused messaging works, even for men.
    Though traditionally, men are less likely to donate to women’s causes, the effect of using future-focused messaging is equally effective on men and women’s intent to donate.

How can this information help you?

Donors and nonprofit organizations alike can use this information to encourage contributions.

  • Join the movement.
    Go ahead, celebrate #IWD2019 or any other social movement with a tweet, Facebook post, or discussion around giving. By doing so, you just might inspire others to give as well.

  • Don’t neglect potential donors.
    Just because men are less likely to give to women’s and girls’ causes doesn’t mean that they are unlikely to give. Don’t leave them out of your target audience and marketing when you consider messaging.

  • Look into the future.
    Whether it’s posting about a cause that matters to you or an organization you work for, use the future tense. The difference between saying “Donations are increasing” instead of “We have gotten X amount of donations” may be the difference between a contribution or not.

Download your free copy of the report or check out the infographic.

Erica RobertsErica Roberts is a communications coordinator for Candid. She is a recent graduate from UCLA, where she studied economics and gender studies.

Topics: Women and Philanthropy Gender and Philanthropy Women's and Girls' Causes