Pictures that are Worth a Thousand Donations: How Emotions in Project Images Drive the Success of Online Charity Fundraising Campaigns? An Image Design Perspective

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Publication History

Received: October 21, 2020
Revised: July 16, 2021; April 26, 2022; July 11, 2022
Accepted: July 18, 2022
Published Online as Articles in Advance: May 17, 2023
Published Online in Issue: June 1, 2023

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Charity fundraising is becoming increasingly reliant on online platforms such as crowdfunding platforms. However, overwhelmingly, crowdfunding campaigns are not meeting their goals. Therefore, it is imperative to examine how the success of charity fundraising campaigns can be improved. In this paper, we focus on the design of project images on a crowdfunding website, which portray the themes and content of the projects. Employing the stimulus-organism-response (S-O-R) model, we investigate the relationships between image attributes (S) and image emotions (O), and between image emotions (O) and campaign outcomes (R). We developed and trained a deep neural network model to identify the emotions conveyed in the images, and then implemented it to analyze project images from a popular crowdfunding platform. We applied the obtained image emotions together with the objective image attributes and the project outcome metrics to explore from a design perspective, what image attributes evoke image emotions, and how image emotions are related to the success of charity fundraising projects. Our results confirm these relationships and further suggest that the roles of image emotions on the success of crowdfunding campaigns vary with project characteristics such as the project budget and category. In addition, the image emotions of competing projects on the crowdfunding platform were found to reduce the project’s performance. In an extended study, we conducted an online randomized controlled experiment by manipulating image attributes to reexamine the causal relationships and verify the mediating roles of positive and negative empathies between image emotions and campaign outcomes. This research contributes to the charity fundraising literature from a novel perspective of emotions in project images. It presents new and unique findings regarding the mediation roles of positive and negative empathies and the limitations of the emotion of sadness in certain types of charity fundraising. In addition, our findings provide useful insights for practitioners seeking to design successful online charity campaigns.
Additional Details
Author Jian-Ren Hou, Jie Zhang, and Kunpeng Zhang
Year 2023
Volume 47
Issue 2
Keywords Charity fundraising, crowdfunding, project images, deep learning, emotions, empathy
Page Numbers 535-584
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