Panel Paper: The Effect of Social Information on Volunteering for Non-Profit Organizations

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 4:10 PM
Grand Pavilion IV (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Oliver James1, Peter John2, Alice Moseley1, Gerry Stoker3, Liz Richardson4 and Matt Ryan3, (1)University of Exeter, (2)University College, London, (3)University of Southampton, (4)University of Manchester
The role of social information and social pressure on individual charitable giving and willingness to contribute to public goods is an area of growing interest amongst scholars.  However there has been little research on the effect of these mechanisms on the amount of time individuals are willing to commit to volunteering for non-profit organisations.  Social information works by providing a cognitive reference point to which people adjust their positions.  Information can also be used in social comparison to compare the self with others and we know that comparison with high contributions by others can increase individual contributions.  In this study we test the effect of combinations of these mechanisms on the time contributed to volunteering for non-profits. Research participants are invited to take part in a research study where they log their volunteering activity on a website and receive feedback on the amount of volunteering they do, compared to other participants.  Three treatment groups receive their individual feedback in comparison to either the group median, the median of the top 10% or the median of the top 20% of participants.  Those in the control group receive feedback on their own volunteering but with no comparative information.  We examine the moderating effect of a person’s social comparison orientation and previous volunteering rate.  The research is conducted with a student population who volunteer with student and community projects and with a population of non-students who are volunteers with a national non-profit, charitable, organisation in the UK.