Patient-activist or ally? Assessing the effectiveness of conscience and beneficiary constituents in disease advocacy fundraising

Edward T. Walker*, Tijs van den Broek, Anna Priante, Michel L. Ehrenhard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Disease advocacy organisations (DAOs) are critical for raising awareness about illnesses and supporting research. While most studies of DAOs focus on personally affected patient-activists, an underappreciated constituency are external allies. Building from social movement theory, we distinguish between beneficiary constituents (disease patients and their loved ones) and conscience constituents (allies) and investigate their relative fundraising effectiveness. While the former have credibility due to illness experience that should increase fundraising, the latter are more numerous. Our study is also the first to investigate where DAO supporters fundraise—through friendship- versus workplace-based networks—and how this interacts with constituent types. Our large-scale dataset includes 9372 groups (nearly 90,000 participants) active in the ‘Movember’ campaign, a men’s health movement around testicular and prostate cancer. We find robust evidence that groups with more beneficiary constituents raise significantly greater funds per participant. Yet because conscience constituents are more numerous, they raise the majority of total aggregate funds. We also find an interaction effect: beneficiary constituents do better in friendship networks, conscience constituents in workplaces. Our findings bear implications for DAOs, indicating they may benefit by encouraging disease patient families to fundraise through friends, and for external allies to focus requests on workplace networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1652-1672
Number of pages21
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • fundraising
  • men’s health
  • prostate cancer
  • resource mobilisation
  • social movements


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