Developing, exploring, and validating a typology of private philanthropic decision making

Magne Supphellen, Michelle R. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research on charitable giving has devoted little attention to the fundamental question of how consumers actually respond to charitable donation requests via direct mail. Specifically, researchers have relied on the untested assumption that consumers engage in fairly extensive evaluations of requests. The present research challenges this assumption. By means of a simple scenario-technique, cognitive and behavioural responses to donation requests were first elicited from a sample of 90 consumers. A qualitative constant comparative analysis of responses resulted in the discovery of three different donor categories with different styles of decision-making: analysts (ANA), relationists (REL) and internalists (INT). ANA were characterised by high involvement and thorough evaluations of both the organisation behind a request and the specific cause promoted. REL were loyal to specific organisations and seldom attended to other information than the organisation behind the request. Interestingly, consumers in the final category, INT, neither evaluated the organisation nor the cause promoted. For these consumers, recognition of the requesting organisation was usually enough to trigger a positive response. In a follow-up survey including responses from more than 400 consumers, the typology of response styles was further explored and validated. In line with predictions from study 1, significant differences were observed in the ways ANA, REL and INT perceive, evaluate and give money to charitable organisations. The findings offer important implications for consumer psychology, public policy and charity marketing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-603
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • 3920
  • 3940
  • Charity marketing
  • Decision making
  • Fund raising
  • L3
  • M3
  • Non-profit organisations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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