The Sociological Approach

The Sociological Approach

Individual monetary donation behaviour has attracted the attention of many researchers from many different disciplines. The literature can be classified into three main approaches; sociological, psychological and multi-dimensional.

The Sociological Approach

Sociologists emphasise the importance of social norm in promoting monetary donation. The effect of social norm on monetary donation behaviour can be explained in at least two ways. In the first explanation, social norm reside outside the individuals and become visible through the actions of other persons in intermediary groups and social networks of which the individuals are a part. This explanation is sometimes labelled as a “structural interpretation” because it emphasises the role of group structure (Bekkers, 2004). According to this explanation, individuals are more likely to obey social norm when they are more strongly integrated into intermediary social groups, such as the family, mosque, or church. In the second explanation, which is referred to as a “cultural explanation”, social norm reside inside the individual through their beliefs and internalised value system (Bekkers, 2004). According to this explanation, individuals are more likely to obey social norm when they have internalised these norms through socialisation in intermediary social groups, including when they are no longer part of these groups. Although the two interpretations lead to different predictions of the conditions under which social norm affect behaviour, they are complementary. Both structural and cultural interpretations claim that social norm affect behaviour in a larger number of situations.

In most social contexts, a monetary donation is rewarded with approval while not donating may damage an individual’s reputation (Bekkers, 2010). Individuals, therefore, may give to charity to achieve a social reward. Lee, Piliavin, and Call (1999) confirm that perceived expectations are a consistent positive predictor of the intention to give money. However, this sociological interpretation does not explain monetary donation behaviour under all conditions. For example, some individuals may prefer to give without disclosing their identity. If individuals only obey norms when their behaviour can be observed, they would not give to COs through bank transfers, for example. Therefore, individuals may give not only when there is approval from others but also for internal reasons, which are the focus of the psychological approach.

The Psychological Approach

Psychologists identify the conditions that affect monetary donation through understanding the cognitive and emotional processes of the donor. In this approach, individuals who give to others experience a number of psychological rewards. In general, the literature distinguishes between two psychological motivations: altruistic and egoistic motivations. Sherry (1983) highlights this, arguing that motivation for donating to charities may extend from “altruistic, where the donor attempts to maximise the pleasure for the recipient, to egoistic, where the donor attempts to maximise personal satisfaction” (p.160).

Early research focused on altruism to explain the monetary donation behaviour of individuals (Shanka and Oroz, 2009). Altruism, in this context, refers to voluntarily helping others without the expectation of a reward (Bierhoff, 1987). Individual donors, according to this perspective, are motivated by altruistic concerns about the well-being of the recipients of their charity. Meanwhile, Bertacchini, Santagata, and Signorello (2010) indicate that altruism may represent the driving force behind engaging in the voluntarily contribution of collective goods. It is evident from Table 2.2 that a number of studies indicate altruism as a motivating factor for monetary donation behaviour (e.g. Shelley and Polonsky, 2002; Manner and Gailliot, 2007; Sargeant, 1999; Smith and McSweeney, 2007).

Altruistic motivation may be a good way to explain anonymous monetary donations by certain individuals; however, researchers such as Piliavin and Charng (1990) and Radley and Kennedy (1995) argue that the existence of pure altruism in an individual’s behaviour is debatable. In this context, West’s (2004) posits that modern compassion is all about feeling good and not actually about doing good (i.e. it is egotistic). Thus, individuals may give in order to signal wealth and status in order to gain public recognition (e.g. Glazer and Konrad, 1996; Harbaugh, 1998), because they derive an internal satisfaction or ‘“warm glow”’ from donating (e.g. Andreoni, 1990), to release the social pressure to contribute (e.g., Keating, Pitts, and Appel, 1981), or to experience relief from guilt (Amos 1982; Dawson 1988).

However, many researchers argue that there is no such thing as pure altruism or pure egotism; rather motivations are on a continuum between pure altruism and pure egotism. Thus, Andreoni (1989) suggests that the model of “impure altruism” is a powerful approach to explain psychological motivations to give monetary donations. Bracha, Heffetz, and Vesterlund (2009) support this view and illustrate that the literature of monetary donation recognises that there may be multiple reasons why individuals voluntarily give money to someone in need. For example, donations may be made because individuals derive satisfaction from improving the well-being of someone other than themselves or because the act of donation causes the donor to feel a warm-glow (Harbaugh, 1998). A multi-dimensional approach is discussed subsequently.

Multi-dimensional Approach

In general, the majority of the early studies focused on identifying demographic factors (such as gender, age, marital status, education levels, or income levels) in order to attempt to explain differences in monetary donation behaviour (Drollinger, 1998; Lee et al. 1999). However, this type of focus fails to further the understanding of the factors that inhibit or encourage monetary donation, or to provide information that might aid the development of interventions in order to increase levels of monetary donation (Smith and McSweeney, 2007). As is evident from Table 3.2, in recent years, more researchers have begun to consider a broader range of influences on monetary donation, including: the motivations for giving (NCVO and CAF, 2012); the decision-making processes in monetary donation (Burgoyne et al. 2005); the role of trust and commitment (Sargeant and Lee, 2004); the role of social relations (Radley and Kennedy, 1995); the impact of personal and social factors on monetary donation behaviour (Smith and McSweeney, 2007); and the role of a charity’s image and reputation in the donors’ decisions (Bennett and Choudhury, 2009).

Despite the abundance of research and attempts to investigate individual behaviour in monetary donation, there is still only limited research on building a comprehensive model. Much of the current research focuses on certain factors that influence monetary donation behaviour while neglecting others. Thus, there is still a need for further research on a range of individual factors (such as attitudes, and social factors) that influence momentary donation behaviour. Furthermore, most of the previous studies of monetary donation behaviour were conducted in developed Western economies (Shelley and Polonsky, 2002; Ranganathan and Sen, 2012), with very few investigating individual monetary donation behaviour in a developing, Muslim, and Arabic country such as Saudi Arabia. To date, there is no published study regarding the Saudi individuals’ perceptions, motivations and behaviours towards monetary donation to COs. Therefore, attempts to build a comprehensive model for the monetary donation behaviour of individuals have to take this context into account.

The next sections present a number of the most popular theories which have adopted a multi-disciplinary approach in order to explain the monetary donation behaviour of individuals. This includes social cognitive theory, social exchange theory, the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behaviour.


Comments are closed.