'Victim Stories' Giving Not Always Best

TEL AVIV, Israel, May 11 (UPI) — Personal “victim stories” only work to inspire charitable giving if the giver can identify with the victim, Israeli researchers said.

Dr. Danit Ein-Gar of the Recanati Graduate School Of Business at Tel Aviv University and Dr. Liat Levontin of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, said charitable organizations should consider their audience’s psychological distance to the charity to determine the most effective pitch.


The Sally Struthers approach — using a starving child to personify the aims of the organization — may elicit an effective emotional response, the researchers said.

However, this approach isn’t appropriate when givers are geographically distant from the victim, the researchers found.

A breast cancer charity should develop a general campaign if the ad will be seen by both genders of varying age groups, the researchers found.

“It’s a bit contrary to what we might think, because we’re more likely to think that people are more responsive to individuals than organizations,” Ein-Gar said in a statement.

“But what we found is that if the ad is spread to a variety of populations — wealthy people, old people, people without children — then you might want to focus on the general organization and not just a certain victim.”

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