You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2014 / June / U.S. Donors Offer More Aid in Hopes of Equality

U.S. Donors Offer More Aid in Hopes of Equality

In a forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research article, Penn State Smeal College of Business’ Karen Winterich, assistant professor of marketing, and coauthor Yinlong Zhang of the University of Texas-San Antonio find that people who live in countries that promote equality in power and wealth are more likely to open their wallets for philanthropic causes than their counterparts in countries that expect and accept inequality.
June 20, 2014

In a forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research article, Penn State Smeal College of Business’ Karen Winterich, assistant professor of marketing, and coauthor Yinlong Zhang of the University of Texas-San Antonio find that people who live in countries that promote equality in power and wealth are more likely to open their wallets for philanthropic causes than their counterparts in countries that expect and accept inequality.

“[S]eeking to increase perceptions of responsibility to offer aid can overcome the negative effect of [power distance belief] on charitable giving.”

Across several studies, the authors looked at how a country’s overall power distance—the extent to which a society expects and accepts inequality in power or wealth—impacts prosocial behaviors like donating money, volunteering time, or helping a stranger.

“In a high power distance society, inequality is seen as the basis of societal order,” write the authors. Therefore, individuals with a high power distance belief are less likely to feel responsible for offering charitable behavior that would reduce inequality.

However, Winterich and Zhang noted that power distance only had a negative effect on charitable behavior when the need was controllable. For instance, even in high power distance societies, people tended to be willing to provide assistance for victims of natural disasters. They were less likely to give in situations that were perceived as “controllable” needs, or those where the person who stands to benefit could be interpreted as being “at fault” for his or her situation. In such situations, potential donors in countries with high power distance belief tend to perceive this person’s need as a natural and necessary part of social order.

“[U]ncontrollable need increases feelings of responsibility to offer aid among those who otherwise would not feel responsible to offer aid for a need that is controllable and may simply be part of the accepted inequality in society,” the authors write.

Takeaways for nonprofit organizations include considering the power distance beliefs of the target audience when creating donation appeals. By emphasizing concepts of equality as well as minimizing the idea of social hierarchy, donation appeals may temporarily lower power distance belief, they find. This decrease in power distance should increase donations.

In addition, “seeking to increase perceptions of responsibility to offer aid can overcome the negative effect of [power distance belief] on charitable giving,” the authors write.

“Accepting Inequality Deters Responsibility: How Power Distance Decreases Charitable Behavior,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research this August. Karen Winterich is an assistant professor of marketing at the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Yinlong Zhang is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Texas San Antonio.

Filed under: , ,
Recent News
Company Looks to Penn State Smeal for Next Generation Supply Chain Talent 23 Jul

The Penn State Smeal College of Business is one of only two schools from which Burlington Stores, a national off-price retailer headquartered in New Jersey, actively recruits for its Supply Chain Leader Development Program. This leadership program for supply chain graduates is an 18-month program that introduces new graduates to the various roles and responsibilities of leadership at the company.

Management and Organization's Gioia Reflects on GM Crisis 11 Jul

When GM began recalling vehicles in February because of an ignition-switch problem, the situation brought back early career memories for Denny Gioia. Currently, the Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and chair of the Department of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, Gioia once worked as recall coordinator for Ford Motor Company.

Inaugural Executive MBA Leadership Forum Addresses Issues in Health Care 09 Jul

Early last month, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program hosted its inaugural Senior Leadership Forum, an opportunity for current and prospective students as well as program alumni to come together to discuss business and leadership.

Ghadar's Recent Book on Immigration's Benefits Garners Media Attention 08 Jul

Becoming American: Why Immigration is Good for Our Nation’s Future, authored by Penn State Smeal College of Business’ William A. Schreyer Professor of Global Management, Policies, and Planning Fariborz Ghadar, has garnered much media attention since its release in March of this year.

Smeal's Lilien, ISBM Cofounder, Earns Lifetime Achievement Award from AMA 03 Jul

Gary L. Lilien, distinguished research professor of management science at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, has earned the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Marketing Association (AMA) Interorganizational Special Interest Group (IOSIG) for his more than 40 years of high-level scholarship in business-to-business marketing.

More Recent News... More Recent News...