The Politics of Giving

There was a fascinating blog entry in last week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy which summarized the findings of a recentstudy on the relationship between politics and charitable giving. Three universities (Rice, UT San Antonio, and Penn State) collaborated to find out how a person’s politics influence how they donate. While many donors may not believe that their political beliefs have anything to do with their charitability, the results of the study suggested otherwise.

Researchers found that donors who expressed that morals were very important were far more likely to donate to a charity when it’s ‘moral foundations’ aligned with their political leanings. Republicans were far more likely to donate to a charity which shared their belief in things like loyalty, traditions, and purity. Democrats were more likely to support causes which focused on things like ‘equality and protection from harm.’

What was interesting about the study is that the participants were all asked whether they would support a charity called Rebuilding Together. When the charity’s mission was described as ‘supporting working American families following traditions and supporting their communities,’ Republicans were more likely to respond. When the same charity was described with a mission of ‘ensuring the protection of a home to every individual,’ Democrats were twice as likely to respond.

So how can the results of this study help you?

If you already have information on your donors’ political affiliations, you can use it to help ‘package’ your case and your appeals, making them specific to targeted sub-groups of your database. Emphasize your loyal and traditional side with Republicans and your inclusive and protective side with Democrats.

If you don’t already have this information, and you think it would be helpful, consider having your database screened or overlaid by a prospect research firm. You can get political affiliation plus many other demographic details about your donors.

And don’t forget that you can simply add this type of information as you go. For any of your present or future relationships with major donors, make sure that solicitors know to observe or seek out the political affiliation of these key individuals so you can customize the case when the time is right.

Storing this information is an easy task for ResultsPlus users. You’ll find a field in the General Information area specifically for storing a donor’s political party. You can add more values to the drop-down list so the information can be as specific as you need.

If you’ve had some success with targeted communications based on political affiliation, please share your experiences and tell us what you learned.