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Gender Gap Exists for Giving, Too

THURSDAY, Aug. 27 -- A series of studies finds that men and women have different approaches to charitable giving based on their gender and moral identities.

The results could help nonprofit groups communicate a message of need more effectively, the researchers say.

The three studies, published in the August 2009 Journal of Consumer Research, examined whether men and women would donate to victims of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the south Asian tsunami, as well as terrorism victims in London and Iraq.

"Men and women are different, but the caricatures of how we differ are wrong," Vikas Mittal, a professor of management and marketing at Rice University in Houston and study co-author, said in a news release. "This and other new research gives us insight into how the genders make decisions about money."

Their research found that individuals with a feminine gender identity are motivated by communal goals, such as the welfare and the nurturing of people, while those with a masculine identity are driven by "agentic" goals, including assertiveness, control and a focus on the self.

The authors describe "moral identity" as the extent to which notions of being moral are central and important to one's self-identity.

The studies found that women who placed a high importance on being moral gave equally to victims of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Men who believed strongly in morality, on the other hand, were more inclined to donate to Katrina victims only. When it came to victims of terrorism, women gave to victims in both London and Iraq, while men donated only to the London group.

"In terms of donations, we found that women expand their circle outward," said Mittal. "They tend to view victims of the tsunami as much a part of the 'in group' as people suffering after Katrina, who are actually much closer to home. Men were willing to donate to Katrina victims but considered the tsunami victims members of the 'out group.' With the terrorism studies, women considered victims of both London and Iraq attacks as members of their circle, while men expanded their group only as far as those injured in London."

The findings are relevant to fundraisers and nonprofit leaders, said Mittal. "Creating communications pieces that target men and women separately should have a positive impact on their donations," he said.

More information

The National Philanthropic Trust has more information on charitable giving here.

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Posted: August 2009

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