Charitable Giving in Nonprofit Service Associations: Identities, Incentives, and Gender Differences

Nonprofit service associations, such as the Lions Clubs, Rotaries, and Kiwanis, provide collective goods. Membership in a service association involves two essential elements: members’ shared interest in the club’s charitable service and private benefits stemming from social interactions with other members, such as networking, fellowship, and fun. We report results from a laboratory experiment designed to test the effect of membership and priming on charitable giving. The two experimental conditions activate chains of associative memory linked to the service or socializing aspects of membership. We find that female subjects give significantly smaller donations after receiving the socializing stimulus. Male subjects are less sensitive to our experimental conditions, giving slightly more in the socializing condition, but the differences are not statistically significant. We discuss three mechanisms that may explain our results: social identity theory, reputation and image motivations, and quality inference.

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