#263-Charitable Giving & Identified Victim

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263-285 Charitable Giving & Identified Victim

Based on research by Kogut, Tehila, & Ritov, Ilana (2005) written by Mara Rowcliffe, M.S.

What influences an individual’s willingness to financially contribute to a charitable cause?

Psychology researchers from The Hebrew University, Israel examined people’s willingness to donate and help others. In their experiment, they asked participants to help either an anonymous sick child or one who was identified by their name and age. 

The researchers surprisingly found that the donation amounts did not differ. However, once a photo was added to the descriptions, then the donation amount significantly increased.  In addition, they examined whether participants would choose to donate more money to an individual who is suffering, or a group of people in need.  They discovered that people were more willing to donate more to a single child than when asked to help a group of eight children.  This occurred even when the single child and the other children were all identified by their name, age, and photograph. Those participants who reported more distress and concern about the child gave more.

When fundraising for an important cause, consider how best to elicit help. Provide specific examples of an individual in need and how a contribution may positively benefit them.  Focus on providing details and stories of the individual.



Kogut, T., & Ritov, I. (2005). The “identified victim” effect: An identified group, or just a single individual?. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 18(3), 157-167.

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