Look to others before you leap: A systematic literature review of social information effects on donation amounts

Claire van Teunenbroek*, René Bekkers, Bianca Beersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


People are often influenced by information about other people’s behavior, that is, social information. Social information is frequently used by practitioners hoping to increase charitable giving, while the precise mechanisms through which social information works are unknown. We conducted a systematic literature review of 35 studies reporting on the effects of social information on charitable giving. We show that several studies report no or even negative effects and that a theoretical understanding of social information effects is lacking. We integrate the empirical findings in the wider fields of social psychology and behavioral economics and propose an integrative theoretical model. The model includes four mediators and three moderators that can explain positive and negative effects of social information. This theoretical framework can assist researchers to obtain a deeper understanding of social information and support practitioners in implementing giving tools in donation campaigns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-73
Number of pages21
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), grant #314-99-105. René Bekkers was supported by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences / Van der Gaag Foundation.

FundersFunder number
Van der Gaag Foundation
Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek314-99-105


    • donation amounts
    • social influence
    • social information
    • social norms
    • systematic literature review


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