Michal Ann Strahilevitz, Ph.D.
Association for Consumer Research member
Associate Professor of Marketing, Golden Gate University
(415) 442-7877
536 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

After Disaster Strikes: Boosting Charitable Giving, Survivor Resiliency

San Francisco, March 29, 2011 – The most effective campaigns to increase charitable giving after natural disasters respect the enormous role emotions have on potential donors, according to marketing professor Michal Ann Strahilevitz.

It’s a matter of “reframing” the fundraising. “Manage the emotional state of your donors,” says Strahilevitz, who teaches at Golden Gate University and is an expert about the psychology of charitable giving. “Make it as personal as possible,” she explains.

“Give donors a concrete sense of the kinds of things their donations can help with,” she urges. “Presenting donors with images and personal stories, rather than statistics, gives them a sense of deeper connection to those in need. And that, in turn, increases donations,” says Strahilevitz, a member of the Association for Consumer Research.

The massive earthquake, tsunami and radiation crisis in Japan make this topic timely. Yet the advice is relevant for almost any group seeking to help a devastated community.

Groups will raise more money when they push buttons that motivate donors and then make giving easy. Legitimizing $5 or $10 donations through campaigns that enable people to send money through text messages is a powerful tool. “Making it easy and acceptable to give small amounts means many more people can and will give,” she says.

Another member of the academic association has studied a different aspect of natural disasters: resiliency in devastated towns.

For those depending on the help of outsiders, resilience takes on a different perspective, whether viewed through the lens of the community or the individual, according to marketing professor Stacey Menzel Baker.

Needs within a town trying to rebuild are as diverse as the people within it. But, notes Baker, if those recovering feel the experience as a group, they’re more likely to come back as a community. “As I can see my neighbor get better, it can help me.”

After studying rural towns faced with starting over after losing nearly everything, Baker cites the tendency among residents to “cowboy up.” That doesn’t just happen, though, research shows.

Though individual resilience is important, people suffering after disasters truly depend on outside resources raised through charitable donations, Baker points out. “Neighbors matter.” If one person doesn’t need help, but a neighbor does, recovery for both depends on whether adequate resources are flowing to the community.

“Individuals and communities have a tremendous capacity to respond to the adversities they face,” says Baker, who has studied communities devastated by natural disasters that have successfully coupled charitable donations with unique strengths and rebuilt.

About the Association for Consumer Research:

The group’s mission is to advance consumer research and facilitate the exchange, worldwide, of scholarly information among members of academia, industry and government. The Association hosts and supports conferences and reviews and publishes scholarly research publications. Its annual North American conference will be Oct. 13-16, 2011, in St. Louis, Mo.

About the researchers:

Michal Ann Strahilevitz, is a member of ACR and a chaired Professor of Marketing
Golden Gate University
San Francisco, Calif. She has been quoted by the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, as well as interviewed on radio and television.

Stacey Menzel Baker is a member of ACR and an Associate Professor of Marketing and Sustainable Business Practices at the University of Wyoming College of Business in Laramie, Wyo. She is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Advertising and is an Associate Editor at the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. She’s been quoted by the Christian Science Monitor, the San Diego Union-Tribune and Marketing News.


Michal Strahilevitz, Ph.D.

(415) 442-7877

Stacey Baker, Ph.D.

(307) 766-3734

Becky Gaylord, ACR Communications Mgr.

(216) 321-5100