Information and Donations: A Study of Nonprofit Online Communication

Huafang Li
2017 unpublished
The question of how to increase individual donations is one of the biggest challenges facing nonprofit organizations. Although research shows that many factors can motivate individuals to donate, little is known about how nonprofits use information to actually increase donations. Using a mixed-methods design, this dissertation employs behavioral theories of charitable giving to explore: 1) the types of information communicated by nonprofit organizations to the public, and 2) how these
more » ... ion efforts influence individual giving decisions. As a first step in examining these issues, tweets communicated between the public and all nonprofits on the 100 list were collected. The 100 list ranks organizations by social media impact, website traffic, and Charity Navigator ratings. Big data analyses of these tweets show that there are four main types of communicated information: mission-related information, direct requests for donations, financial information, and performance-related information. The results also show that mission-related information and direct requests are more frequently communicated than the other two types of information. A cheap information model is then proposed to explain why mission-related information and direct requests are communicated more frequently. Next, whether (and to what extent) the frequencies of each type of information about an organization are associated with public attitudes toward that organization is tested. Results of several multivariable regressions suggest there are no significant associations between frequencies of information communicated and public attitudes toward ii nonprofits. Finally, an online conjoint experiment is employed to explore the extent to which manipulation of the different types of informational messages (e.g., higher/lower evaluated missions, with/without direct requests, higher/lower program ratios, and higher/lower performance ratings) either boosts or decreases donations. These experimental results suggest that individuals are more likely to donate to a nonprofit that has a more highly evaluated mission, communicates direct requests, and has higher program ratios and performance ratings. The results of this dissertation shed new light on the relationship between organizational information and individual donations. In addition to new theoretical insights, the findings from this dissertation should provide practical advice for nonprofit organizations on how to communicate information with donors more effectively. iii ACKNOWLEDGMENT