Obligatory Publicity Increases Charitable Acts

Adelle X Yang, Christopher K Hsee:

To entice new donors and spread awareness of the charitable cause, many charity campaigns encourage donors to broadcast their charitable acts with self-promotion devices such as donor pins, logoed apparel, and social media hashtags. However, this voluntary-publicity strategy may not be particularly attractive because potential donors may worry that observers will attribute their publicized charitable behavior to “impure” image motives rather than “pure” altruistic motives. We propose and test a counterintuitive campaign strategy—obligatory publicity, which requires prospective donors to use a self-promotion device as a prerequisite for contributing to the campaign. Five studies (N = 10,866) test the application and effectiveness of the proposed strategy. The first three studies, including two field experiments, find that obligatory-publicity campaigns recruit more contributions and campaign promoters than voluntary-publicity campaigns. The last two studies demonstrate that the obligatory-publicity strategy produces a greater effect among people with stronger image motives and that the effect is mitigated when the publicized charitable act signals a low level of altruism. Finally, we discuss limitations and implications of this research.