Donations in social context

Robert W. Ressler, Pamela Paxton, Kristopher Velasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Many nonprofit organizations rely on donations to fund their programs, and a robust literature predicts donations in large-scale quantitative studies. The focus, however, is almost exclusively on the financial characteristics of the organizations, leaving the social context underexplored. In this article, we theorize how ecological context, organizational identity, and social network ties can shape donations. We use the new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) release of e-filed nonprofit reporting forms to consider 95,518 501(c)3 nonprofits around 2015. Using lagged regression models, we find that organizations within a more favorable ecological context, those that use appeals to religion, and organizations with more volunteers report more donations. Furthermore, stressing affiliation with a geographic location is associated with more donations only under certain ecological conditions. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of these results for nonprofit organizations and social theories regarding what influences donations to organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-715
Number of pages23
JournalNonprofit Management and Leadership
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management


  • donations
  • forms 990
  • lagged regression
  • organizational ecology
  • sociology


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