They ought to do it too: Understanding effects of social information on donation behavior and mood

Claire van Teunenbroek*, René Bekkers, Bianca Beersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Social information, providing potential donors with information about the donation amount given by earlier donors, is often applied as an intervention in online donation contexts. It has been suggested that social information informs others about the most common (descriptive norm) or appropriate (injunctive norm) behavior, and that these perceived social norms explain its effects. We present evidence from a preregistered online experiment testing to what extent perceived social norms mediate effects of social information on charitable giving. In addition, we examine whether social information affects donors’ moods. A positive mood after donating is important to avoid negative side effects of a nudge like social information. We argue that social information increases social pressure to donate in a certain way and therefore decreases donors’ moods. In an experiment among British citizens (n = 1029), we manipulated descriptive and injunctive social information. We show that injunctive social information, mentioning the appropriate donation amount, increases donation amounts (10%) and donors’ moods (10%). Contrary to earlier research, merely stating descriptive social information did not affect the donation behavior or mood. We found no evidence that social information affects giving behavior or mood via perceived social norms. Our findings how different types of social information affect charitable giving are important for fundraisers or policy makers aiming to increase charitable behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-253
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Donation behavior
  • Mood
  • Online experiment
  • Social information
  • Social norms


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