Cause-Related Marketing: The Effect of Checkout Charity Requests on Consumer Donation Behavior

Executive Summary

Using a sample of 241 people, the study found:

  • Consumers are not more willing to make donations to a charity when it is linked to a service compared to a physical good.
  • Consumers are more willing to make donations to a charity when they buy frivolous products than when they purchase practical products. However, there is no significant difference in regard to future behavioral intentions toward the provider based on whether the product was frivolous or practical.
  • Consumers are more likely to donate and respond favorably toward the provider when practical services and frivolous goods are paired with causes perceived to have a strong functional fit.
  • Consumers are more likely to donate and respond favorably toward the provider when frivolous services and practical goods are paired with causes perceived to have a weak functional fit.
Research Notes

Research Method

Participants were shown an image of a product/service under purchase consideration priced at $29.99 and upon checkout asked to make a $3 donation to a charitable cause. Participants were asked to rate the likelihood of donating to the stated charitable organization and attitudes and future behavioral intentions towards the product provider. Next participants were asked questions assessing altruism, organizational affinity, guilt, consumption experience, and product/cause fit.

Future intentions toward the provider were assessed with level of agreement with: “I would be willing to tell others to shop at this store/use this service provider”, “I would be willing to shop at this store/use this service provider in the future”, “I would be willing to share feelings related to this store/service provider experience on social media”, and “I would be willing to buy more cause-related products from this store/service provider in the future”.

Related Literature Review

According to the study’s authors:

  • The effectiveness of checkout counter donations “is likely a consequence of convenience and pressure rather than a well-informed motivation of a consumer to invest in a charity. Moreover, this pressure is shown to increase when consumers purchase non-necessary, frivolous products (e.g., ice cream/candy, game system, wine, etc.)… While such non-necessary purchases can increase feelings of guilt, consumers may find the available option of donating to a charitable cause at the point of purchase as a way to diminish felt guilt through altruistic behavior toward those in need (Zemack-Rugar et al 2016).”
  • “Consumers’ willingness to donate is impacted by the perceived fit between the product they are acquiring and the charitable cause. Studies reveal that if there is a strong fit between the product and the cause, consumer responses are higher (Becker-Olsen et al 2006, Rifon et al 2004).”
  • Frivolous products “evoke guilt in consumer purchase and consumption processes (Giner-Sorolla 2001). However, when a consumer purchases a frivolous product linked to a charitable organization, feelings of guilt can be diminished as a result of altruistic behavior tied to the support of social or environmental cause (Chatterjee, Mishra, and Mishra 2010; Hibbert et al 2007)”
  • “There is no empirical consensus on the positive influence of fit on (cause marketing) effectiveness. One stream of research suggests that there is a direct and positive relationship between cause-brand fit on consumer responses to (cause marketing), such as brand image (Gwinner & Eaton 1999), altruistic attributions (Ellen et al 2006, Rifon et al 2004), brand credibility, and product purchase intention (BeckerOlsen et al 2006, Gupta & Pirsch 2006b). On the other hand, research exists that refute the positive relationship between brand-fit and brand image (Menon & Kahn 2003), attitude towards CRM (Lafferty et al 2004), attitude towards brand and product (Nan & Heo 2007) and product purchase intention (Barone et al 2007, Lafferty 2007). A third stream of research suggests that a moderate level of fit generates the best response. (Drumwright 1996, Barone et al 2000). This effect is explained by consumer’s belief that with relationship is credible by avoiding the perception that an organization is exploiting a cause in an effort to generate sales rather than an altruistic intention of contributing to society.”

Limited Sample Size

A total of 241 subjects participated in the study. Ranging between 20 to 76 years old, the average age of the sample was 38.7 years. The sample was 59% female, 79.3% Caucasian, almost half (48.5%) of subjects had a 2 or 4-year college degree, and 54.4% of respondents earned less than $40,000 a year.

Full Report

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Publication Date

2016/06/01

Publication

Atlantic Marketing Association

Author(s)

Minerva Lacal Pardo, Brian R. Kinard

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