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Tug of the heart & purse strings

Factors influencing donor generosity: Insights following Hurricane Katrina

Y3843984, Transferable Skills Group 19 members
The Department of Psychology, University of York



In the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, generous charitable

Results from the ANOVA showed that gender does not significantly influence the

donations pour in from private donors, leading us to question what motivates indi-

amount of money people are willing to donate to the Katrina cause, F(1, 585) = 0.62,

viduals to respond to the needs of strangers.

p = 0.431, ηp2 = 0.001. Knowing someone who receives or has received assistance
from a charity does

According to donors, victims of natural disaster are not perceived to be responsible
with the victims and their context (Zagefka, Noor, & Brown, 2013), and having family
or friend go through similar misfortune (Small & Simonsohn, 2008), also seems to
result in increased giving, suggesting that when one can relate to or visualise those
in need, it somehow becomes more personal. The final consideration in this study is
whether a gender gap truly exist in charitable giving, as greater levels of empathic
concern has previously been linked to increased generosity by women (Willer,

Total household donation to the
Hurricane Katrina effort ($)

for the circumstances that they find themselves in (Zagefka et al., n.d.). Familiarity




amount of donation
either, F(1, 585) =


1.1019, p = 0.313,


ηp2 = 0.002. Finally,


the interaction


between independent


Wimer, & Owens, 2015).

not influence the


variables did not


Do you personally know someone who receives or has
received assistance from a charity?

reach significance
F(1, 585) = 0.451,


Figure 1: The effects of personally knowing someone who has benefitted from charity
and gender on donor generosity

Donor generosity is influenced by gender.

p = 0.502, ηp2 = 0.001.

Knowing someone who has received assistance from charity

Results from Spearman’s correlation revealed that the amount of money that a

will influence donor generosity.

respondent was willing to donate to the Katrina cause ($0-100) was significantly

There is an interaction between knowing someone who has

related to their perceptions of whether the victims poverty was within their control,

benefited from charity and gender on donor generosity.

rs = 0.135, 95% BCA CI [0.046, 0.23], p = 0.002.

Donor generosity is related to perceptions of whether the


recipients’ poverty is within their control.

These hypotheses were explored using quantitative data collected from an online
survey in the USA, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Results from this study demonstrate that neither gender, nor knowing someone
who has received assistance from charity, significantly influence donor generosity.
Although the results did not reach significance, contrary to previous findings, the
general trend in the graph indicating that male respondents were more generous


in their giving, and more so, if they knew someone who had received support from

Data: Variables of interest were selected from a subset of the original data collected

recipient of charity. A small but significant association was found between the

in a study by Fong and Luttmer (2009), investigating factors influencing charitable

amount of money that a respondent was willing to donate to the Katrina cause



($0-100) and their perceptions of whether the Katrina victims’ poverty was within


their control.

charity. Women were less influenced by knowing someone who is, or has been, the



Limitations: Analysing the effect of gender on the amount of money that the re-

n = 300

spondent and their household had donated to charity is flawed, since the household may include males and females.


Future directions: Further analysis should look at what influences donors’ percep-


tions of the self-efficacy of victims, i.e. control over their circumstances.

n = 320


Procedure: In the original study, participants completed an online survey. After
watching an audio-visual presentation, specifically designed to influence impres-

Fong, C. and Luttmer, E. (2009). “What Determines Giving to Hurricane Katrina Victims?

sions of the income, race and worthiness of Katrina victims, the respondents were

Experimental Evidence on Racial Group Loyalty.” American Economic Journal of Applied

asked to decide how $100 should be split between themselves and a charity sup-

Economics 1 (2), 64–87.

porting the victims. Included in the 56 other variables, were questions related to the
recipients’ perceptions, values, prior charitable giving and racial attitudes.


interest was carried out using IBM SPSS software.

Willer, R., Wimer, C. & Owens, L. (2015). What drives the gender gap in charitable giving?


Zagefka, H., Noor, M., & Brown, R. (2013). Familiarity Breeds Compassion: Knowledge of
Disaster Areas and Willingness to Donate Money to Disaster Victims. Applied Psychology, 62

(4), 640–654.

Two-way independent ANOVA:

someone who
has received
from charity

Due to a significant positive skew in the outcome
variable (range: $0–30,000, mean = $246.18), the


most extreme outliers (z > 3.29, n = 5) were removed from the analysis (new range: $0-3,000,
mean = $125.94).

Total household
donation to the
Katrina cause

Spearman’s correlation:
Estimated % of
Katrina victims
= poor due to
reasons beyond

Behavior. The Journal of Consumer Research, 35(3), 532–542.

Lower empathy leads men to give less to poverty relief. Social Science Research, 52, 83–98.

Variables & Analysis: Analysis of the variables of

$ willing to give
to charity if
$100 received
in lottery

Small, D. & Simonsohn, U. (2008). Friends of Victims: Personal Experience and Prosocial

Nonparametric analysis was used as neither
variable met the assumption of normality.

Zagefka, H., Noor, M., Brown, R., Randsley de Moura, G., & Hopthrow, T. (n.d.). Donating
to disaster victims: Responses to natural and humanly caused events. Retrieved from http://

This study was a joint
collaboration between Group
19 of the Transferable Skills
classes, as part of the
Psychology Masters
programme at the University
of York. Thank you to each
of my group members for
your unique contribution to

Correspondence: xxxxxx@york.ac.uk

this project.

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