Charity Begins at Home: Understanding the role of national identity on propensity to donate to local, national and international charities

Year of publication
David J. Hart and Andrew J. Robson, Northumbria University

This research project aimed to understand how people distinguish between donating to domestic and international charities. Specifically, what makes a person donate to a charity that serves their own country versus other countries, and to what extent do donors believe in the old adage “Charity begins at home?”

To investigate this area, the researchers used the concept of national identity to explore if a person’s relationship (i.e. level of attachment) with their own country impacts on their support for domestic versus international charities. A series of political issues were also incorporated into the study, eg voting behaviours in the 2016 UK EU Referendum and support for austerity and Overseas Development Aid (ODA). In total, 1004 completed responses were received, of which 20% came from Scottish respondents.

  • In terms of national identity, respondents were most likely to agree with the statements assessing patriotism, with statements on internationalism receiving the least agreement. This fits with the overall preference for domestic over international charities. In terms of political policies, there was a mixed responses response on support for austerity, but overall respondents were not particularly supportive of ODA. Those who did support ODA tended to be younger females.
  • A core finding from the study is the relevance of how an individual voted in the UK EU Referendum influences various attitudes and behaviours. Whereas those who voted ‘Leave’ were more predisposed to nationalism, support for austerity and charitable ethnocentrism, ‘Remain’ voters showed greater support for internationalism, ODA and charitable cosmopolitanism. It appears that how individual’s voted in this referendum is a useful predictor of their charitable giving.
  • Correlation analysis demonstrates that national identity is highly influential in an individual’s decision to prefer domestic or international charities. Whereas nationalism and patriotism (both incorporating positive affection towards one’s country) are positively correlated with charitable ethnocentrism, internationalism (a more global form of concern) is associated with charitable cosmopolitanism. These findings suggest that how an individual feels about their country may be a powerful predictor of their donation intentions.
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