The impact of regulatory focus on consumer responses to fundraising campaigns for environmental causes
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Non-profit organizations these days have difficulties carrying out their mandates due to shrinking government support, limited finances for disseminating messages through mass media, and intense competition from a myriad of other charitable organizations. Above all, these organizations are faced with a lack of a meaningful set of guidelines on how to communicate their environmental cause effectively. Therefore, it is important to develop a better understanding of how different types of verbal messages and visual images promoting donations influence individuals’ attitudes towards and intention to contribute to non-profit organizations. Environmental messages for fundraising usually involve some goal to be attained and means suggested as the way to attain it. These arguments can be framed in terms of either promotion (gain/non-gain), or prevention (loss/non-loss). However, the key question here is whether the relative influence of these two message framing varies according to the recipient’s chronic regulatory focus considered as people’s predilections for distinct forms of self regulation during goal pursuit. In this respect, this research aims to examine the impact of environmental messages and image framing using the regulatory focus theory. To be specific, this study investigates whether there is a "regulatory fit," a feeling of rightness about what they are doing, by matching certain chronic regulatory focus orientation with the compatible regulatory-focused verbal messages (hypothesis 1), or visual images (hypothesis 2). In addition, this research also examined whether there is a congruent effect between regulatory-focused message and image framing (hypothesis 3), as well as whether its interaction effect moderates the relationship between recipient’s chronic regulatory focus orientation and their responses to the fundraising ad campaign (hypothesis 4). Therefore, the current study uses a moderated multiple regression analysis to test the joint and individual effects of three independent variables (chronic regulatory focus orientation: promotion vs. prevention X message framing: promotion vs. prevention X image framing: promotion vs. prevention) on three dependent variables (attitudes toward an ad, attitudes toward a non-profit organization, and willingness to donate). According to the results, individuals having a chronic promotion-focused orientation are more persuaded by promotion (gain or eagerness) framed message emphasizing the potential environmental benefits of doing donation, whereas individuals having a chronic prevention-focused orientation are more persuaded by prevention (loss or vigilance) framed message highlighting the potential environmental dangers of not making a donation. The finding of the regulatory fit would be applied to communication strategies for gender specific causes, the localization of the global fundraising campaigns, and the consumer segmentation and targeting. This study also extends prior research by finding some significant three-way interaction effects: for both promotion and prevention orientated individuals, the print ad combined with the promotion-focused message and prevention-focused image produced the most persuasive effect on attitude toward non-profit organization. In other words, a regulatory-focused visual image, especially, the prevention-focused image has an important role to weaken the existing regulatory fit effects between chronic regulatory focus orientation and regulatory-focused verbal message on attitude toward non-profit organization.