Relationship between philanthropy and online



As far as charitable giving is concerned, charity is a regular operation. The wealthier they are, the more they like to be charitable. Robust foundations such as Bill Gates’ charity, the Bill Gates Foundation, are built around the concept of “health” and provide services to the needy in countries where they are in need. Also, to encourage the rich to be charitable, donations to charitable organizations allow donors to take a personal deduction of up to 20% for five years, which is intended to encourage the rich to give money, narrow the gap between rich and poor, and promote social mobility. There are many different motivations for people to give, and an essential explanation for why people give is altruism, where people give because they are motivated by the joy of being happy, which means that people do care about the profitability and happiness of others, which is a purely altruistic explanation.

Nevertheless, this explanation is not sufficient; the “warm glow” is a non-altruistic model that assumes that people’s donations also bring some benefit to the donor.1 People contribute to public goods because they can simultaneously consume private goods and gain utility. For example, people who buy things in charity stores donate money for public goods and consume private goods simultaneously, gaining utility. This explanation can be seen as a non-purely altruistic model.

In China, charitable giving is motivated by a long history of cultural heritage. The Chinese people are a nation with a tradition of love and charity, which can be seen in the tradition of helping the poor and the needy, as advocated by traditional Chinese culture, such as “respecting the elderly and loving the young, and treating the elderly as one would like them to be treated”. On the one hand, this is because the Chinese are deeply influenced by Confucianism, which states that “if you are poor, you should be good to yourself, but if you are rich, you should help the world”; on the other hand, in this Confucian ethical system, people believe that they can only help others after they have maximized their value in life. There are many ways to do good, such as volunteering, contributing time, energy, and wisdom to a social organization.

As a representative of the online charity, UNICEF (United National International Children’s Emergency) has always been committed to promoting the implementation of children’s rights by contributing to policy development and legal protection work and has been well-received and supported worldwide. The reason for its popularity in China is, firstly, the diversity of UNICEF projects in China, including child protection, and secondly, its advocacy strategy, which uses the most moving, warm, and valuable voices to arouse people’s enthusiasm for public service. It is its originality and mission that has moved people to make UNICEF inspire Chinese people to do good.

With the continuous development of philanthropy and the increased interest in charitable activities, more and more scholars are conducting researching on charitable giving. For example, Scholars used evolutionary psychology theory to examine how highly narcissistic consumers are more likely to engage in donation-related behaviors, such as willingness to give and sharing of donation sessions, when organizational reputation is high compared to low narcissistic consumers.2

Drawing on social learning theory and trust transfer theory, scholars have examined the relationship between trust in online giving platforms, peer influence, and helpfulness and online giving intentions,3 although they have focused more on these scholars’ motivational influences on giving behavior, none have addressed the influence of class mobility factors. The current study has a diversity of donation targets, including three aspects: corporate, individual, and youth; for example, how perceived class mobility affects economic preferences,4 the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives on fans’ willingness to give online in the US college and university athletic departments; most scholars,5 although they have studied giving behavior and class mobility, have failed to bring in the context of internet philanthropy and cannot well combine class mobility with internet philanthropy, resulting in a relative lack of research on the impact of class mobility and online giving behavior.

The reasons behind people’s cooperative or voluntary giving are complex, and the factors influencing people’s decision to give are diverse. This study is based on empirical research, starting from the new context of Internet charity, using the variables of perceived class mobility, philanthropic sentiment, and online giving behavior as the core variables of the study, further exploring the role of perceived class mobility, philanthropic sentiment, philanthropic perception and online giving behavior to analyze and explore the relationship between the perceived class mobility of consumers on philanthropic sentiment and philanthropic perception, and examining the impact of each The study also examines the impact of each variable on consumers’ online giving behavior.

Literature Review and Theoretical Hypothesis

Literature Review

Perceived Class Mobility

In consumer behavior, class is an expression of socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status refers to the material wealth an individual possesses, social resources, and the social position one perceives oneself to be compared to others.6 Social class refers to the differences in social status caused by objective differences in social resources between groups and people’s subjective perceptions of such differences; Subjective economic status as a person’s beliefs about his or her position in the socioeconomic structure,7 in other words, subjective social status reflects the relative perception of an individual’s position in the social hierarchy. While socioeconomic status is part of social class, subjective economic status is a subjective perception of status.

As society continues to progress and research continues to advance, some scholars have become more comprehensive in their understanding of socioeconomic status, individuals with higher levels of perception of class mobility believe that social systems are flexible, permeable, and allow for autonomous mobility between different class groups.8 Individuals in lower social classes are more likely to be more materialistic than individuals in higher social classes because they are often in uncertainty and constraints make them more materialistic and concerned with practical benefits,6 that is to say they may be more materialistic compared to individuals in higher social classes; The perception of class mobility refers to the fact that while people experience objective class mobility,9 Whether upward or downward mobility, when individuals leave their previous social class, it causes psychological stress or psychological problems for individuals, making them more prone to utilitarian individualism, which means that more concerned with individual interests at the expense of others’ interests or collective interests.10 Individuals in higher social classes live in resource-rich environments and are more inclined to pursue experiential things when their basic needs are met, so they may not value material wealth, no other than they are less materialistic.11 Subjective social status also refers to one’s perception of one’s status or rank relative to others, and for adolescents, status is usually in a social or school context, and subjective social status usually refers to their perception of their family’s position in society relative to others’ perceptions, and their status at school concerning others.12

Through different scholars’ definitions of perceived class mobility, it is concluded that class mobility mainly refers to the process of individuals crossing class boundaries, that is to say, the process of moving from one social class to another and the mobility of social classes can also bring about essential impacts on social development. In summary, this paper defines perceived class mobility as the subjective perception and judgment of an objective change in one’s social status.

The Concept of Charity

Conception refers to the reflection of the objective world in the human mind in the same way as consciousness, spirit, and thought. It also refers to the image of the external characteristics of objective things reproduced in the human mind, formed based on sensation and perception. Scholars defines charity as “the act of transferring time and products to people or organizations that have no interest in them, then this act is called ‘charity’ or ‘fraternity’”.13 Charity mainly includes altruistic and egoistic motives, which drive the development of philanthropy.14 Egoism first appeared in Plato’s States, from the Latin ego, and is characterized by self-centeredness, with personal interest as the principle of thought, intention, and moral evaluation, Egoism considers actions in one’s interest to be ‘good’ actions, that is, moral actions. Egoism denies selfless altruism.15 Egoism is essentially monotheistic because it has only the ‘I’ as its goal and that it also makes him theoretically parochial because it makes him indifferent to everything that is not in his immediate interest.16 Altruism was first coined by Comte, who argued that it represented a selfless act towards others, It can be considered altruism as a zero-sum act that benefits others to the detriment of oneself, while Bar-Tal defined it as a zero-sum act that benefits others to the detriment of oneself.17,18 Highly altruistic creators are intrinsically and personally attracted to helping others because they instinctively like to do so, regardless of changes in the external environment or their situation.19 It can be considered that high altruism creators are intrinsically and persistently encouraged to participate in community activities, help others and share ideas, regardless of changes in external circumstances or situations, and that these provide them with an intrinsic sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

Accordingly, based on the summary of Herbert’s research, this paper divides the concept of charity into egoism and altruism; based on the interpretation of the concept by different scholars, thus outlining the relevant concepts, egoism refers to the behavioral intention that can enhance one’s social status and gain respect through charitable giving; altruism refers to the behavioral intention of voluntarily helping and donating to others without expecting any personal rewards. Altruism is behaving voluntarily to help and donate to others without expecting any personal reward.

Emotions of Charity

Moral emotions are emotions related to social welfare or social interests and that moral emotions arise in relation to groups other than individuals, such as social welfare or the interests of others.20 Philanthropic emotions also share similarities with moral emotions. However, some scholars argue that the influences of charitable emotions include compassion, happiness, and gratitude, and therefore too many factors are measured. This study uses compassion as the core variable of charitable emotions, so compassion here is also referred to as charitable compassion. Compassion is

the response of the observer’s personality and the impulse of others to react as they would if they were in the situation, and how they evaluate others’ responses.21

As the study progressed, the concept of empathy contains both cognitive and experiential components,22 and that for both adults and children to be able to empathize with a person’s emotional To empathize with a person’s emotional experience, both adults and children must first be able to distinguish and identify relevant emotional cues from the different emotional states of different people, and be able to infer the internal emotional states of others based on the emotional cues obtained, especially those based on perspective taking.

Through the definitions of charitable compassion, or charitable emotions, various scholars have outlined that charitable emotions refer to the subjective feelings that naturally flow from caring for and feeling compassion for the tragic or painful experiences of others. In summary, this paper defines charitable emotions as those feelings that enable people to put themselves in the shoes of others, learn to understand their emotions, pay attention to their feelings, and learn to care for and help others.

Online Giving Behaviour Intention

Regarding the act of giving, charitable giving is an act of unconditional giving that voluntarily allocates corporate profits without expecting anything in return,23 Charitable giving as a purely altruistic, moral act of good citizenship,24 On the other hand, giving is an essential manifestation of corporate social responsibility;25 At the same time, scholars have found that it is individuals are influenced by the social atmosphere in a caring society and acquire the moral sentiment of being charitable and humanitarian values, which in turn leads to charitable giving behavior intention.26 Giving will not be at the expense of their interests because of the interests of others, or expecting other rewards different from monetary rewards, such as prestige, honor or inner peace, made to maximize personal benefits,27 Charitable giving as an essential pro-social behavior, often generated/enhanced by the emotional stimulus of advertising.28

Different scholars’ definitions of giving behavior intention conclude that giving behavior intention refers to a behavior intention in which people make public consumption or charitable donations. In contrast, online giving behavior intention is a new form of donation method derived from the development of the Internet. To sum up, this paper defines online giving behavior intention as the behavior intention of individuals influenced by the subjective and objective environment to make charitable donations through online platforms.

Theoretical Assumptions

Perceived Class Mobility and Philanthropic Sentiment

Perceived class mobility is a subjective feeling about the mobility of the socio-economic status one is in, and charitable feelings are feelings arising from compassion for the misery of others. People with high social status have higher levels of empathy than those with low social status,29 People’s sympathy for social revolution when they are in a specific class status There is also a corresponding increase,30 Although social liberals are more sympathetic to people with low incomes than social conservatives, reading with caring privilege reduces their sympathy for the poor, which means that the higher the social class, the more sympathetic the group is.31 The higher people’s social status is, the more pronounced they are in generating sympathy for society, such as charitable sentiments. The effect of perceived class mobility on charitable sentiments can be examined, and based on the above discussion, the following research hypothesis is proposed.

H1: Perceived class mobility has a significant positive effect on charity sentiment.

Perceived Class Mobility and Perceptions of Charity

Philanthropic perceptions mainly consist of egoistic and altruistic motives, which are reflections of the objective world in one’s subjective perceptions. High-class people are self-centered, show less pro-social behavior, and have egoistic tendencies,32 Having a responsible investment in the names of class people may be associated with an egoistic ethical stance;33 Some scholars have also found that the status effect of conspicuous green consumption can act as a signal of altruism and high commitment.34 Therefore, it can be seen that the higher the class, the stronger the motivation for egoism and altruism will be, and coupled with the fact that they are both the same idea, the correlation between subjective class mobility and the idea of philanthropy deserves to be explored in depth, and based on the above discussion, the following research hypothesis is proposed.

H2: Perceived class mobility has a significant positive effect on perceptions of charity.

Perceived Class Mobility and Online Giving Behaviour Intention

From an objective class perspective, people with higher socioeconomic status were more willing to secure their social status through philanthropic activities.35 Higher-class individuals were not only more integrated with groups, but also more actively involved in voluntary activities.36 From a subjective class perspective, the correct perception of one’s grassroots is more evident in donation activities.37 High social status donations were more likelihood and amount of giving are higher than those of lower social status, more willing to help others and more involved in volunteering activities.38 The above literature shows that the higher the social status, which means that as people’s socioeconomic status continues to increase, their intention towards charitable giving will become increasingly apparent. Based on the above discussion, the following research hypothesis is proposed.

H3: Perceived class mobility has a significant positive effect on online giving behaviour intention.

Philanthropic Sentiment and Online Giving Behaviour Intention

The rapid development of philanthropy cannot be separated from the deepening of people’s perceptions of charity, and philanthropic emotions can be an essential factor in behavior intention. The use of positive emotions aligned with the moral goals of charity increased monetary donations and preferences, with preferences driven by the moral concerns highlighted by the respective emotions.39 Respondents’ emotions were linked to their giving behavior intention.40 As changes in people’s emotional appeals affect their intention to give, people’s increased emotions towards charity will also lead them to produce more giving behavior, and based on the above discussion, the following research hypothesis is proposed.

H4: Philanthropic sentiment has a significant positive effect on online giving behaviour intention.

Perceptions of Charity and Online Giving Behaviour Intention

The stronger people’s subjective perceptions are, the stronger the willingness to act; trait empathy and self-interest strongly influenced different pro-social behaviors and that those with lower risk and more self-interest perceptions were more willing to donate,41 Motivated by moral superiority, or warm-hearted altruism resulted in deserved victim donation,42 Effective altruism emphasizes rational and ethical decision-making prior to donating to judge the cost-effectiveness of a donation to ensure that the effect of a donation is maximized.43 From this, it can be seen that donor-giving behavior is mainly driven by egoism and altruism, and based on the above discussion, the following hypotheses are proposed.

H5: Philanthropic perceptions have a significant positive impact on online giving behaviour intention.

Based on the above theoretical assumptions, a model of the relationship between perceived class mobility, philanthropic sentiment, and consumer online giving behavior intention was constructed, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Model of the measurement.

Study Design

Study Objects and Data Collection

Considering the unique nature of this research, the economic income and standard of living of the respondents have an important influence on the research results, so it is more representative to look for people who have experienced monthly donations. Therefore, this study was conducted through a questionnaire distributed by Questionnaire Star, which lasted one month and two days. The questionnaires were distributed in a one-to-one format, mainly through social networking sites, and the respondents were those who had experienced monthly donations. Four hundred nineteen questionnaires were collected, and after screening the data to eliminate some abnormal and invalid data, the remaining valid questionnaires were analyzed for demographic data (N=307), as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1 Demographics

Research Variables and Measurements

Operationalization of Research Variables

According to the conceptual definition of the model’s constructs (variables) based on the existing literature on the subject, defined in the context of this study and used as the set of observations, namely the question items, the operational definitions of the five constructs are shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2 Operational Definitions


This study draws on scholarly research with appropriate adaptations for the context of charitable giving and the need to meet the requirement of a minimum of three question items per construct for the structural equation model.46 Each construct in this study has more than three measurement items, and all questions are measured on a seven-foot scale. The specific measurement scales are shown in Table 3

Table 3 Variable Measurement Options Design

Model Analysis and Results

This study, Smart-PLS 3.3 software was used to analyze the data and test the research hypotheses presented above. The reasons for using this software are path and regression analysis through structural equation modeling and, secondly, to explore the causal relationships between structural variables, deal with model structure and item measurement.51 In addition to this, the software analysis is not very restrictive on the amount of data and can address issues such as multicollinearity and measuring external models in addition to analyzing complex predictive models.52–54 Maximum number for path analysis should be 5–10 times the sample size.55 In this study, the sample size was 307. The maximum path coefficient was 5, meeting the recommended criteria and, therefore, suitable for PLS analysis. This study will test the measured model regarding reliability, convergent, and discriminant validity.

Reliability and Convergent Validity of the Measurement Model

Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) is equivalent to estimating a measurement model in structural equation modeling. In this study, the measurement model was estimated using maximum likelihood estimation. CFA was conducted on four constructs (dimensions): perceived class mobility, philanthropic sentiment, philanthropic perceptions, and online giving behavior. According to the reliability and convergent validity criteria, standardized factor loadings greater than 0.6 are acceptable and ideally should be greater than 0.7,56,57 composite reliability should be greater than 0.6, and average variance Extracted) to be higher than 0.5, then the measurement model has good convergent validity.46 The Cronbachs α coefficients for all the constructs in this study ranged from 0.828–0.918, and the combined reliability (CR) ranged from 0.898–0.948, indicating good internal consistency for each construct; the average variance extracted ranged from 0.746–0.859 (as in Table 4), all of which met the criteria. Therefore, all five dimensions had good reliability and convergent validity.

Table 4 Reliability and Convergent Validity of Each Construct

Discriminant Validity of the Measurement Model

In this study, the discriminant validity of the measurement model was tested using the rigorous AVE method. The square root of the AVE for each conformation is said to have discriminant validity if it is greater than the correlation coefficient between the conformations.57 As indicated in Table 5, the root mean square of the AVE for the diagonal constructs in this study was more significant than the off-diagonal correlation coefficient. Therefore the vast majority of the constructs in this study had good discriminant validity.

Table 5 Distinct Validity

Model Hypothesis Testing

This study uses partial least squares analysis to test the hypotheses. In PLS, the path structure between structures constitutes the internal model. The model is used to estimate the path coefficients and the t-values. The path coefficients represent the strength and direction of the relationship between the variables to show the causal relationship between the observed and potential variables. The R2 value, on the other hand, is the percentage of the dependent variable that can be explained and represents the model’s predictive power.

From Table 6 and Figure 2, it can be seen that perceived class mobility has a significant positive effect on charitable sentiment, supporting H1 (PCM→CE; β=0.597, t-value=12.22); perceived class mobility has a significant positive effect on charitable perception, supporting H2 (PCM→CC; β=0.473, t-value=8.347); perceived class mobility has a significant positive effect on online giving behavior intention, supporting H3 (PCM→OGBI; β=0.189, t-value=2.395); philanthropic sentiment has a significant positive effect on online giving behavior intention, supporting H4 (CE→OGBI; β=0.191, t-value=2.092); philanthropic perception has a significant positive effect on online giving behavior intention, supporting H5 (CC→OGBI; β=0.42, t-value=5.353), thus all hypotheses of this study were supported. The effects of these control variables, including age, monthly disposable income, academic qualifications, and occupation, on online giving behaviour intention were not significant (as shown in Figure 2).

Table 6 Results of Model Hypothesis Testing

Figure 2 Standardized path coefficients and significance.

Abbreviations: CVs, control variables; CV1, Age; CV2, Monthly disposable income; CV3, Monthly disposable income; CV4, Occupation.

Notes: **p<0.01, ***p<0.001.

Testing the Effects of Intermediation

In addition to this, this study also tested all mediating effects of trust, in which following scholars46,58,59 in the test of mediating effects, if mediating variables are present, the requires that the direct and indirect effects present statistically significant features, and therefore in the case of mediating variables, the direct and indirect effects must be statistically significant. Therefore, we can calculate the variable share (VAF).46 Based on the results of the tests in Table 7, the following conclusions can be drawn: Philanthropic perception (CC) is a partial mediator of perceived class mobility (PCM) and online giving behavior intention (OGBI), and philanthropic emotion (CE) is a partial mediator of perceived class mobility (PCM) and online giving behavior intention (OGBI).

Table 7 Mediating Effect


Based on existing research concepts, this study draws on previous research to build a structural equation model. It uses partial least squares (PLS) to verify the model’s stability and test the model hypotheses. This study can be used by managers and implementers of public benefit organizations to build social well-being better. First, the results of the data analysis show that perceived class mobility has a significant impact on online giving behavior intention. Although social status significantly predicted individuals’ charitable giving behavior intention, they failed to study operationalize “class status” as a measurement index and only asked respondents for information to conclude.60 This study operationalizes perceived class mobility by measuring their perceptions of class mobility using a scale. Secondly, previous studies on class mobility have mainly taken a social development perspective, where class mobility affects income mobility and social development,61 while this study confirms a correlation between class mobility and giving behavior intention.

Firstly, the research perspective is shifted to the public interest perspective. Secondly, the motivational factors affecting giving behavior are broadened to include philanthropic sentiments and perceptions. Finally, the research object is shifted from the corporate to the individual giving behavior intention perspective, according to the results, which show that people’s social class continues to move. Because their status increase, their perception of philanthropy and their feelings of philanthropy also increase, thus stimulating their giving behavior intention. The findings of this study may provide a theoretical basis for future philanthropic endeavors and non-profit organizations to understand the psychological motivations of donors to give and how to develop more valuable and diverse philanthropic projects. Non-profit organizations should stimulate giving behavior intention by creating an atmosphere of upward class mobility.

Research Limitation and Future Research

This study extends new areas of knowledge in data acquisition and data analysis, although in the process of research, although trying to be rigorous, the study has limiting factors. As different angles of online giving behavior intention can lead to different results, and as more aspects are involved in the influencing factors, the evaluation indicators chosen in the establishment of the theoretical model may have been poorly considered and the evaluation system imperfect, leading to certain shortcomings in the study.

Firstly, the study focused on the UNICEF donor population, and no research was conducted on other philanthropic organizations; secondly, the sample was drawn from a survey of people who donate to UNICEF, and the survey population was not divided into regions to reveal differences in donor behavior across regions; Finally, obviously social class is a huge mediating variable that needs to be explored further.

In future studies, we can consider adding other mediating variables such as conspicuous giving to study online giving behavior in more depth, expanding the theoretical model and enriching the research content, as well as selecting more public interest organizations and charitable giving projects to research to examine people’s online giving behavior intention under different social factors one by one, and in future studies, we can divide the scope of the research and compare the differences by analogy, for example, on In the future, the study could be divided into different areas, such as regional comparative studies of donors in different regions or exploring the differences in people’s online giving behavior intention in different regions.

Data Sharing Statement

The data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

Ethics Statement

These studies involving human participants have been approved by the ethics committee at Chongqing Institute of Engineering. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in this study. These studies were conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.


The abstract of the manuscript was presented orally at the Korea Industrial Economics Association conference (2022 Fall) under the title “A study of the relationship between perceived class mobility, philanthropic sentiment, and consumer online Donation behavior”, and the manuscript was also revised by the participating professors.

Author Contributions

All authors made a significant contribution to the work reported, whether that is in the conception, study design, execution, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation, or in all these areas; took part in drafting, revising or critically reviewing the article; gave final approval of the version to be published; have agreed on the journal to which the article has been submitted; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.


The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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