To Profit or Not to Profit? The Role of Greed Perceptions in Consumer Support for Social Ventures

71 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2017

See all articles by Saerom Lee

Saerom Lee

University of Texas at San Antonio - College of Business

Lisa Bolton

Pennsylvania State University

Karen Page Winterich

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration

Date Written: May 2017

Abstract

An increasing number of social ventures are for-profit companies (i.e., for-profit social ventures) that seek to advance a social cause while making a profit. In a series of seven studies, this research investigates consumer support for organizations as a function of their social mission and profit orientation. The impact of profit orientation on consumer support depends upon the prominence of the organization’s social mission. For organizations with a prominent social mission, profits are interpreted as a signal of greed; absent a prominent social mission, a for-profit orientation can instead imply greater competence. As a result, consumer support of for-profit social ventures suffers in comparison to both nonprofits and for-profits — a downside to the organizational benefits of for-profit social ventures identified in prior research. In addition, this research investigates organizational factors that alter greed perceptions and consequently support for for-profit social ventures, including excessive organizational spending, profit perceptions, and operational efficiency cues. Together, this research sheds light on consumer reaction to organizations that support social causes, with implications for the social venture marketplace — including the nonprofit versus for-profit quandary faced by social entrepreneurs.

Keywords: For-Profit Social Ventures, Nonprofit, Greed, Social Mission, Profit Orientation, Communal Norms

Suggested Citation

Lee, Saerom and Bolton, Lisa and Winterich, Karen Page, To Profit or Not to Profit? The Role of Greed Perceptions in Consumer Support for Social Ventures (May 2017). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2980968

Saerom Lee

University of Texas at San Antonio - College of Business ( email )

San Antonio, TX 78249
United States

Lisa Bolton

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Karen Page Winterich (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States

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