Donation experience: Covid only slightly displaces other concerns
The Covid-19 pandemic and its solution have only partially displaced other social and political concerns – and not persistently, despite the pandemic’s constant high media presence. This is shown by an international team of researchers led by economist Esther Blanco from the University of Innsbruck. The results were recently published in the journal “Frontiers in Psychology”.
Since the spring of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has been omnipresent: incidence rates, hospital occupancy rates and, more recently, vaccination rates have ruled out other subjects. Researchers from the University of Innsbruck, in collaboration with a colleague from the University of Paris-Nanterre, investigated whether this move also translated into a willingness to donate to other social and political causes. “At the start of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty: we saw unprecedented amounts of money being allocated to Covid-19, and there were serious concerns that this would mean less money internationally and nationally for the environmental protection or poverty reduction measures, ”says Esther Blanco of the Department of Public Finance at the University of Innsbruck. “Other social issues and concerns, whether it be inequality, poverty or the climate crisis, not only disappeared during the pandemic, of course, but in public consciousness these concerns were not. not as present as the Corona crisis. We wanted to understand to what extent the Covid-19 pandemic has replaced other concerns, ”explains her colleague Natalie Struwe. In a donation experiment with more than 1,700 participants funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, researchers were able to show that other social concerns were not completely out of place – and that, at least in the sample, there are a correlation between the incidence of Covid and the willingness to donate to social causes over a ten-month period: the higher the incidence, the higher the willingness to give.
The participants, students of the University of Innsbruck, received 3 euros in the experience, which they could donate to various social organizations or NGOs or keep for themselves. “We increased the donations by a quarter of the amount paid, so that the participants had an additional incentive to donate,” says Felix Holzmeister from the Department of Economics at the University of Innsbruck. A total of 1,762 people took part in the experiment. They were randomly assigned one of three scenarios: they could either donate to eight charities – the Red Cross, WWF, Médecins sans frontières, SOS Children’s Villages, Amnesty International, “Licht ins Dunkel” , Oxfam or Caritas -, to these eight and in addition to the WHO Covid-19 Fund, or only to the WHO Covid-19 Fund. In addition, participants answered many questionnaires on their general willingness to donate, their attitudes towards various social issues and Covid-19. During the first two months of the experiment, the researchers collected data weekly, then monthly, and the experiment ran from April 2020 to January 2021. The researchers linked the donation data and the survey by questionnaire to the incidence data of Covid-19 for Tyrol, where most of the participants study and live.
In total, participants gave an average of 2.50 euros when given the choice between several NGOs – whether or not the Covid-19 Fund was part of the selection. At the same time, participants have consistently made significant contributions to the Covid-19 Fund, both when it was the only fund available and when it was on the list of nine organizations. “This shows that donations to other social causes are partially replaced by donations to the Covid-19 Fund when it is on the list of potential beneficiaries; however, this does not completely replace any of the other social causes, ”explains Alexandra Baier of the Ministry of Public Finance. Additionally, women tended to give more than men, as did those particularly committed to Covid-19 mitigation and poverty reduction. Those who perceive themselves to be at risk of poverty, on the other hand, have donated less, and as the incidence of Covid-19 increases, the willingness to donate also increases – to all causes, not only to the Covid-19 Fund. And another result emerges clearly in comparison with the data of the questionnaire: the confidence that the participants place in a charitable organization is an important explanatory factor for the donations to the respective organization.
So, contrary to fears, social and political concerns such as environmental protection, poverty and inequality have by no means completely disappeared from public consciousness – the Covid-19 crisis may have pushed these questions outside the media, but not out of people’s minds. . “We interpret this, among other things, as the desire of society to use Covid-19 recovery funds in a way that also supports these other social concerns,” says Natalie Struwe.