Religiosity linked to higher charitable giving, unless materialism hinders

New research has found that religious people are more likely than those who are non-religious to engage in charitable causes, except when materialism enters the equation.

Researchers at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, located in Waco, Texas, examined 180 adult participants and how religiosity impacted their levels of generosity and subsequent charitable giving patterns.

In the study, researchers noted the difference between religiosity and religious affiliation, in which religiosity, by definition, “is something that individuals experience outside of their place of worship and constitutes a way of viewing and experiencing the world that is different from their less religious (or nonreligious) counterparts.”

Researchers concluded that religiosity led to higher contributions by donors. Charitable giving decreased, however, when materialism was brought into the discussion.

“The research showed that those expressing higher levels of religiosity were found to possess more favorable attitudes toward helping others and to charitable organizations. And those with stronger attitudes toward helping others also expressed a greater breadth in their giving,” researchers stated, in a news release.

“At once, we want to help others, but at the same time, we desire the money and possessions that we all cherish to a greater or lesser degree. It is the result of such give-and-take between opposing values that drives our behavior as donors to charitable causes,” said James A. Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at Baylor University.

“Although materialism was found to reduce the breadth and likelihood of charitable giving in the present study, it could spur charitable giving if it is driven by self-serving motivations. Large donations that come with naming rights, spur news coverage or exceed the donations of other prominent individuals are all examples of how materialism can be used to drive charitable donations.”

The findings were published in the International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing.