Is giving a gender game?

nudgeA recent study covered by Mail Online claims that women are more likely to avoid giving to charity than men if they have the option.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and University of California Berkeley conducted several experiments on raising money door-to-door.

In the group given an ‘opt-out’ option in advance of the fundraiser coming to call, women were much more likely to tick the box and avoid giving a donation.

I always find it interesting reading about these little nuances in giving behaviour – particularly when they involve real world experiments such as this.

Our recent research report on ‘nudge’ theory with the Cabinet Office conducted many behavioral experiments, looking at how even the smallest of changes to the wording and presentation of material can have a big effect on how much we give.

However, the conclusion drawn from this new American study that men are generally more generous doesn’t really reflect what we’ve seen over the years in the UK.

Looking at our annual World Giving Index 2012, mapping giving across the world, Britain actually has the 3rd most generous women when it comes to giving money away – beaten to the post only by Australia and Ireland.

There is also a significant difference between the genders – 77% of British women giving money compared to 68% of men.

Surprisingly, this is drastically different in the US, where men give marginally more than women – 59% compared to 55%.

Other pieces of our research – including UK Giving, as well as a recent poll on running for charity – all show women in the UK are more likely to be charitable than men.

In another recent survey of young people, teenage girls were also much more likely to aspire to work for a charity than teenage boys.

It would be interesting to conduct a similar experiment on door-to-door fundraising in the UK as demonstrated by these American universities and see if it yields similar results.

Rather than pointing to an ungenerous spirit among American women, this experiment may  show that men and women respond differently to different fundraising tactics.

Personally I’m pretty averse to making snap decisions on giving to charity and perhaps many other women of a similar mindframe would want to dodge the door to door fundraiser.

Merely looking at door to door fundraising gives a rather skewed perspective. To build on the results of the US experiment it would be worth looking at how men and women respond to a variety of fundraising strategies.

After all, our research repeatedly points to British women far outshining men in their generosity,  so perhaps the real question that needs to be addressed from this experiment is whether different methods of fundraising have different appeals to men and women, or whether this points to an interesting transatlantic gulf in the giving behaviours of women.

Emily Gorton

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