Can too much similarity to self backfire? The effects of different levels of similarity on charitable donations

Date
2018-02-22
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American English
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Ph.D.
Degree Year
2018
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Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
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Indiana University
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Abstract

How is charitable giving influenced by other donors’ charitable giving? Do people give more in the presence of other donors who are similar to themselves? Most research suggests that individuals are positively influenced by others who are similar across a variety of behaviors. In the charitable giving contexts, people are more likely to donate (or donate more) to the same cause if others who are similar donate. Yet, prior research has paid little attention to potential non-linear effects of similarity on charitable giving. Is there a certain amount of similarity that is too much? My dissertation investigates this research question through two different methodological approaches, a systematic literature review and an experimental study. The findings suggest the curvilinear effects of similarity on charitable giving (i.e. self-other oversimilarity hypothesis); that is, individuals are more likely to donate (and donate more) in the presence of other generous donors who are moderately similar to themselves. Yet, individuals are less likely to donate (and donate) less in the presence of other generous donors who are in high similarity to themselves. In other words, too much similarity between donors may actually backfire in charitable giving contexts when others give generously. This dissertation consists of a brief overview of similarity (Chapter 1), a systematic literature review (Chapter 2), an experimental study (Chapter 3) and a research proposal (Chapter 4). Chapter 1 in this dissertation identifies the importance of similarity in social relationships. Chapter 2 investigates the effects of similarity on charitable giving and identifies the literature gap. Chapter 3 attempts to fill the gap via developing and testing self-other oversimilarity hypothesis. It further offers practical implications for nonprofit fundraising practices on how to apply similarity between donors to motivate more funding. In order to provide additional empirical evidence that may contribute to theory and practice, and to address certain limitations of the current experimental study, Chapter 4 proposes a new research project to further test self-other oversimilarity hypothesis in the presence of a stingy donor.

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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
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