What do people look for when donating to international charities?

What do people care about when it comes to donating to international charities? Is it the recipient country’s level of hunger, per capita income, or strategic ties to the host country?

A survey involving nearly 700 students at the University of Otago in New Zealand tried to answer just that.

Participants were presented a 1000minds conjoint analysis survey with the goal of figuring out which characteristics matter most when donating money to international charities: hunger and malnutrition, child mortality, quality of infrastructure, average income per capita, or strategic ties to New Zealand.

1000minds elicits participant preferences by asking a series of pairwise comparison questions using the PAPRIKA method - for example, would a participant rather donate to a country with poor infrastructure but low child mortality, or good infrastructure but high child mortality?

It turns out that donors prefer their money to go to countries that have high rates of hunger and malnutrition (28%), rather than countries that have a low average income per capita (18%).

The second most important characteristic to donors was child mortality (24%), while the least important characteristic was strategic ties to New Zealand (9%).

These results suggest that in order to maximize the amount of donations received, non-profit organizations (NGOs) should focus their marketing efforts on hunger, malnutrition, and child mortality.

A subsequent study found that aid effectiveness is equally important as hunger and malnutrition when allocating aid. In other words, people would like money to go to where it will be most effective, but not if need is low.

Read more:

H Cunningham, S Knowles & P Hansen (2017), “Bilateral foreign aid: How important is aid effectiveness to people for choosing countries to support?”, Applied Economics Letters 24, 306-10 [Economics Discussion Papers, No. 1605]

P Hansen, N Kergozou, S Knowles & P Thorsnes (2014), “Developing countries in need: Which characteristics appeal most to people when donating money?”, Journal of Development Studies 50, 1494-1509

P Hansen, N Kergozou & S Knowles (2013), “Charitable giving: How recipient-country characteristics influence donors’ behavior”, EcoNZ@Otago 31, 1-3