The influence of competing organisational appeals on individual donations

Samara Klar, Spencer Piston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Policy scholars and the public alike are concerned not only with the actions policymakers take in the legislature but also with the money that enables policies to reach the legislative agenda. A significant portion of these funds come from individual donors. We examine how appeals from public policy organisations influence donation behaviour. Existing research studies the effectiveness of appeals in isolation, but few studies consider the competitive environment in which these appeals occur. With nearly 1.5 million nonprofit organisations in the United States, Americans face many competing appeals for their limited funds. We develop a theoretical account of the effects of competing appeals on donation behaviour and test our theory with a large experimental study across two Midwestern states. Our results suggest that negative emotional appeals, rather than increasing total donation behaviour, increase the proportion of donations directed towards the soliciting organisation. Furthermore, two competing appeals cancel out one another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-191
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 16 2015


  • donation behaviour
  • emotions
  • experiment
  • identity
  • nonprofit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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