It's Not You (Well, it is a Bit You), It's Me: Self- Versus Social Image in Warm-Glow Giving
17 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2022 Last revised: 18 Apr 2022
Attempts by charities to motivate giving tend to focus on potential donors’ altruistic tendencies. However, prior research suggests that approximately 50% of individuals are to some extent motivated by warm glow, the satisfaction received from being “seen” to be doing one’s part to help others. The satisfaction derives from looking good to themselves (self-image) or because they want to look good to others (social image). The question remains, are these individuals giving to enhance their self-image or to enhance their social image. We conduct an online experiment using a technique to create a more realistic simulation of being watched to determine the importance of self-image and social image with respect to warm-glow giving. Our results suggest that charities looking to increase their donor bases might effectively do so by focusing on the self-image concerns of those being solicited; we find that warm-glow giving is primarily driven by self-image. Charities wishing to increase the amount donated by their existing pool of donors might effectively do so by focusing on the social image concerns of the donor; we find that social image significantly increases average giving.
Keywords: self-image, social image, Altruism, warm glow, experiment
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