A Cross-cultural Study on the Effect of Causes of Need in Charity

Document Type



cause of need; attribution theory; charity marketing; cross-cultural; study; empathy; outcome efficacy

Identifier Data



Global Alliance of Marketing & Management Associations

Publication Source

Global Marketing Conference


When considering donation, donors may evaluate causes of need and deservedness of recipients (Bekers & Wiepking, 2011). The plight of recipients may be attributed to their misbehaviors (e.g., laziness) or social problems (e.g., poor welfare), which in turn influences donation decisions. To maximize persuasiveness of donation appeals, therefore, marketers of charity events should decide how to describe donation recipients. How potential donors perceive recipient responsibility also interacts with donor characteristics (Lee, Winterich, & Ross, 2014). We investigate how causes of need interact with donors’ cultural background to determine reactions to donation appeals. Drawing upon research on the cultural differences in thinking styles and causal attributions (Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, & Nisbett, 1998), we propose that donation appeals are better accepted when there is a correspondence between donors’ cultural background and causes of need than when such correspondence lacks. We find that Westerners and Easterners show distinctive reactions to charity appeals that present different causes of need. Specifically, we demonstrate that Westerners are more attracted to appeals with external causes, whereas Easterners are relatively unconcerned about causes of need. We also offer insight into the process via empathy and outcome efficacy through which cause of need and culture collaboratively affect the persuasiveness of charity appeals. Empathy drives the effect for both Westerners and Easters; outcome efficacy drives the effect for Westerners only.