Influencing Donor Decision-making: An Examination of Situational Determinants that Impact Donation
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Research around donor decision-making has shown the importance of understanding why donors make decisions. However, much less research exists explaining how donors make decisions. Set against the backdrop of online websites and in the context of donation, this dissertation examines how web characteristics, as situational determinants, influence donor decisions. Situational determinants are influences that arise because of a specific situation where a consumer is using the product or brand; these are instances that extend beyond the basic tendencies or traits of the consumer (Belk 1974). This could be a behavioral setting, a space, or a time (Belk 1974); other situational instances involve how the product is used, how the product is purchased or how the product is communicated to the consumer (Kovtun, Shvets, and Puzyreva 2014). To better understand situational determinants in the donation domain, this dissertation centers on empirically assessing website characteristics and donation. Employing websites as a means of communication is becoming more widespread. This is especially true for nonprofit organizations, as websites have become a fundamental instrument in communicating with donors (Nonprofit Marketing Guide 2012). Because websites are an essential marketing tool for nonprofit organizations, understanding how online marketing communications or characteristics may influence donors becomes desirable. This dissertation contributes to the situational determinants literature by developing two essays that examine how online website characteristics impact individual donations. Essay one elucidates how central (as reflected by web content) and peripheral (as reflected by web structure and entertainment) routes influence attitudes toward the website, and the downstream variables including donations of time and money. Consistent with previous research related to Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty and Cacioppo 1981), the results reveal that both peripheral and central routes can affect individuals’ donations, and that donations of money are affected more by the central route than by the peripheral route. However, contradictory to what the ELM would predict, the results reveal that, in the low-involvement situation (i.e., for those who are lowly identified with the charity), individuals are more influenced by information formed through web content, as opposed to web structure and entertainment, whereas the reverse is true for the high-involvement situation. Building on essay one, the second essay illuminates how cognitively-laden and affectively-laden website characteristics influence donation through the pathway of two dimensions of perceived intangibility, namely physical intangibility and generality. The results reveal that while cognitively-laden characteristics have a stronger influence on donation directly, and indirectly through generality, affectively-laden characteristics primarily influence donation via physical intangibility. Furthermore, for less experienced donors, cognitively-laden web characteristics have a stronger impact on donation. This essay sheds light on how cognitively-laden and affectively-laden website characteristics affect modes of decision-making. This dissertation contributes to the existing literature by examining situational determinants that influence donation. Additionally, we contribute to the dual processing literature by revealing when and how the central and peripheral routes are most influential across a target population. Furthermore, we contribute to the online marketing communication research by elucidating how cognitively- and affectively-laden website characteristics influence decision-making both directly and indirectly through organizational perceptions. Finally, we contribute to the literature on intangibility by examining antecedents, and identifying their importance in online marketing communication and subsequent outcomes.