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Sisters Raising Awareness: An Exploration of Volunteerism and Donating in the Non-Profit Sector

Alesia Howard DePaul University PRAD 585

Abstract Technological advances, generational gaps and value differences are only a few of the challenges that a non-profit might face today. One organization familiar with these challenges is the Little Sisters of the Poor, an international non-profit organization that benefits elderly poor. This study examines how often people donate to non-profit organizations, in order to aid the Sisters in their awareness and giving initiatives. Additionally, this study explores how effective sources are for getting people involved in charities.

Using convenience sampling, five DePaul University graduate students conducted in-depth interviews with five total participants about homelessness, their volunteerism and experience with non-profit organizations. The qualitative results show that every interviewee had a genuine concern for the homeless community in Chicago. Also, the in-depth interviews showed that the interviewees had never heard of Little Sisters of the Poor, therefore they associated the organization with children. The quantitative results showed that 53% of the respondents currently donate to a non-profit organization. On average, 33% of respondents donate more than three hundred dollars. Additionally, marketing material with in-depth information on the charity was effective for only 14% of the participants.


Little Sisters of the Poor is an international Roman Catholic congregation dedicated to serving the elderly poor. The organization operates in more than 30 countries around the world including Chicago. Little Sisters of the Poor is challenged with lack of awareness, donations and volunteerism in community. Because the Sisters’ primary responsibility is the direct care of their

residents, they rely exclusively on their patrons to help sustain their mission. The Sisters currently function by interacting with the community directly and giving their benefactors an opportunity to be charitable. Often times this involves going door-to-door to “beg” for money. Although the Little Sisters of the Poor have received bounteousness support from their current benefactors’, they have not been able to expand their reach. This is generally due to lack of awareness and Little Sisters of the Poor being merely one of countless non-profit organizations in the Chicago area. There is currently a lack of awareness in the Chicago community about The Little Sisters of the Poor. This lack of awareness contributes to the larger issue of limited donations and partnerships. The research will explore how awareness can be increased, by figuring the effectiveness of in-depth marketing materials to get them involved with organizations unfamiliar to them. Due to unfamiliarity of The Little Sisters of the Poor and the reliance of intuition throughout the organization’s existence, in-depth research is recommended in order to solve this awareness problem. The research will include examining the current level of awareness and determine which methods will have the greatest impact in raising awareness in the Chicago land area. Literature Review Dolnicar and Lazarevski's (2009) "Marketing in non-profit organizations: an international perspective" is an academic article that tested three hypotheses: non-profit organizations follow a customer-centered approach to marketing; marketing is run by marketing-trained staff; and cross-continental differences in the adoption of marketing in the UK, the USA, and Australia exist due to differences in the operating environment.

The article found that the most important marketing activities were promotional in nature. In addition, results showed that only a small proportion of non-profits acknowledged the importance of market research and strategic marketing. This indicates that many non-profits lack the planning and strategy behind building awareness and building a brand. Surprisingly, the article also found that non-profit organizations in the UK, the USA, and Australia did not differ in their use of marketing and operations. This particular finding is significant because although the research in this study did not survey internationally, the Little Sisters of the Poor is an international organization. One of the first things that the Little Sisters of the Poor explained was that they did not want to self promote because it goes against many of their beliefs. This article relates to the Little Sisters of the Poor because it affirms that awareness cannot exist without promotion. It is necessary to have marketing and advertising in order to make the public aware of charity organizations. "Marketing Alliances Between Non-Profits and Businesses: Changing the Public’s Attitudes and Intentions Towards the Cause" by Nowak and Washburn (2000) the extent to which corporate and non-profit partnerships can impact the public's attitudes and intentions to support a cause, using experimental design. The results of the study showed significant changes for only one type of alliance, which is between a low affinity cause and a corporate sponsor with a strong reputation. The low affinity cause experienced increased:  Customer trust in the non-profit  Intentions to support the cause  Evaluations of cause importance

 Personal feelings of responsibility to help the cause  And evaluations of consequences for society through providing support The article states, "carefully researched, structured, and implemented cause marketing alliances have the potential to allow non-profits to benefit by increasing awareness and support for the entire movement." According to Stafford and Hartman (1996), when a popular corporate icon publicly supports a social issue, its suppliers, customers, and competitors are likely to follow. The Little Sisters of the Poor can benefit from notoriety of a corporate sponsor or partner, in general. The benefit of non-partner and corporate relations is that they are two-way. Nonprofit organizations have the opportunity to increase awareness, educate, and gain support for a cause and corporate sponsors get an overall positive image boost and positive reputation from their stakeholders.

In E. Van Niekerk's "Not-for-profit marketing: branding, brand equity and marketing of smaller charities," he investigates the influence of charity brands on stakeholder choices, the charity’s reputation on donor behavior and whether smaller charities are aware of and use their brands. A questionnaire tested donor perceptions and also conducted a focus group insight about the marketing of small organizations. The results show that: 1. Non-profit marketing is effective 2. Charity brands are extremely valuable but underutilized 3. An organization’s reputation is its most valuable asset

This relates to the Little Sisters of the Poor because it highlights the importance of brand management and awareness. The Sisters need to establish a brand that is easily recognizable to the public. Although I did not explore the specifics of donor behavior for this research, the overall research that the class conducted did explore donor behavior. The article written by Beth Breeze, "How donors choose charities: Findings of a study of donor perceptions of the nature and distribution of charitable benefit" also explores donor behavior and the extent to which assessments of need are a factor in giving decisions. The study is based on interviews with 60 diverse people who have made donation commitments. The article explains that contrary to common belief, "people do not give to the most urgent needs, but rather they support causes that mean something to them." According to the study, the following are four common "non‐needs‐based" criteria that influence donors’ decision‐ making.  Tastes, preferences and passions, acquired as a result of an individual’s social experiences. These motivate many giving decisions, even among donors who perceive them to be motivated by meeting needs.  Personal and professional backgrounds also shape their philanthropic stories and influence their choice of beneficiaries.  Perceptions of charity competence, notably the efficiency with which they are believed to use their money, often judged on the basis of the quality and quantity of direct mail.  Desire to have a personal impact, such that their contribution makes a difference and is not ‘drowned out’ by other donors and government funding.

The article places much of the responsibility of non-profit volunteerism and sponsorship in the hands of the organization. The Little Sisters of the Poor will have to make stronger efforts to tap into the "tastes, preferences and passions" of their potential donors and volunteers. Many people care about the causes that the organization stands for but the sisters have to help people come to that realization. "Cause-Related Marketing: An Exploratory Study of Campaign Donation Structures Issues" by Grau, Garretson and Pirsch is a journal about the ethical issues of linking a corporation and a non-profit. Essentially, an online exploratory survey was conducted with 112 people from a local community group. In summary, the results show that many times negativity is a result of the partnership of non-profits and corporate sponsors. This article is included because although the Little Sisters of the Poor should consider corporate sponsorship, they should also weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the relationship. Method Interviews As a group we conducted a total of five interviews with Chicago residents, three females and two males. All of the interviewees were between the ages of 21-30, most being in their early twenties. Conducting in-depth interviews allowed for a deeper interpretation of the ideas that people have about the Little Sisters’ of the Poor and non-profit organizations as a whole. Based on the observations, implications can be made about volunteerism and donating behavior for Little Sisters of the Poor. All of the interviewees lived in Chicago for five years or less. For my personal interview, I went to Panera Bread on State Street and interviewed a random person sitting at the table next to me. He was a white male, age 21. The interview was conducted on a weekday, at 2:45 pm, at a public place. The interview lasted about 25 minutes, not including the introductory questions.

Results Overall, the interviewees had the same reaction to the questions that were asked. Every interviewee mentioned the prominence of homeless people on the streets of Chicago and how there needed to be more available resources for them. When asked about the current state of the elderly in Chicago, one interviewee said the following: “Providing food and health benefits are lacking. And I know that a lot of senior citizens have issues
with getting around. I know in Ohio there is a program that helps with that. Also transportation services. Probably those things are big for the community. And they probably just appreciate having someone around.”

There was a genuine concern for both the elderly and the poor but a lack of awareness of how he could help. Because all of the interviewees failed to know what the organization was, they all affiliated it with children in some way. Almost each person was involved or donated to a charitable organization. When we talked about nuns running it people saw it as being more credible, but no one had a definitive answer. For some it positively shaped their views, but for others it negatively shaped their views. None of the interviewees are originally from the city of Chicago. Many people attached a feeling or emotion to their reasoning for donations. Some of the common themes include:      Lack of awareness Emotional connection to giving Impressions of organization Religious ties Donation patterns

Interviewee lack of Chicago origin

Surveys Between May 10 and May 20, 2013, twenty-seven DePaul graduate students gave online surveys to 395 respondents. The mean average was 31 years old. The survey results showed that the vast majority of people both in Chicago and out of Chicago have not heard of the Little Sisters.

Results Results of the surveys showed that 88% of the people who live in Chicago have no heard of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Figure 1.1 shows these results. Figure 1.2 shows the effectiveness of marketing materials with in-depth information for getting people involved in a new charity. Participants were given a seven point likert scale 1 being very ineffective and 7 being very effective. Have You Ever Heard of the Little Sisters of the Poor?
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Yes No Chicago Non-Chicago

Figure 1.1 Shows that 12 % of the people who live in Chicago have heard of the organization and 88% has not. Out of the people who do not live in Chicago, 14% said that they had heard of the organization and 85% had not.

How effective is marketing with in-depth information for getting people involved in a charity they have not heard of?
Very Ineffective Ineffective Somewhat Ineffective Niether Somewhat effective Effective Very Effective

Figure 1.2 Shows that 26% of the participants believe that in-depth marketing materials are somewhat effective in getting them involved in charities that they are unfamiliar with. About 18% of participants found the in-depth marketing materials neither effective nor ineffective.

Discussion The research results show that despite the lack of awareness, there is a genuine concern for the elderly and the poor in Chicago. This finding shows that if more people were aware of the Sisters, more people would help. Additionally, the research showed that in-depth marketing materials might be a good asset for the organization. People are not completely opposed to the idea of marketing materials. Although expected, I found it interesting that no one in the entire population of interviewees recognized the Little Sisters of the Poor. They did not know anything about the organization. The fact that everyone interviewed has some religious tie was also enlightening because it showed that despite the diversity in religion, giving is always an essential idea. The results are similar to what I expected because I predicted that no one had ever heard of the organization. They do not conduct any marketing so the lack of awareness is a given. Dissimilar

to my expectations was the resemblance in the responses about giving. The interviewees generally did not like in-mail promotions. They also much rather donate money or food to organizations, rather than time. The quantitative results taken from the survey have two implications for Little Sisters of the Poor. 1. Many people have no idea what the organization is about or stands for. 2. It will be a good idea to send people in-depth materials in order to get them involved. The majority of the participants in the survey agree that marketing materials are somewhat effective in getting them involved with an organization with which they have no familiarity. Recommendations When Little Sisters of the Poor first came to us, they knew that they had many issues, but the Little Sisters of the Poor can do many things to improve their awareness in Chicago. First, they can advertise. Even though they are not interested in self-promotion, in order to make people aware that they exist, what they do and why it is important. People are always looking for opportunities to help others and volunteer, especially in large cities. In addition, Little Sisters of the poor can improve awareness by partnering with other organizations. Many of the responses indicated that volunteers and donors learn about charities through other people that they know. If The Sisters partner up with a well-known organization, they can draw from the other organizations awareness. The partner does not have to be a corporate partner, but it can be another non-profit or organization with similar beliefs and goals.

Appendix In-Depth Interview Guide
Warm up questions: 1) How long have you lived in Chicago? Probe: what neighborhoods have you lived in? 2) What do you find difficult about living in Chicago? 3) Tell me about the people you run into on a daily basis while walking about the city. Probe: Do you find any of them particularly interesting? 4) What do you do for a living? Probe: Have you ever worked for or been involved in a not-for-profit organization? Questions: 1) Are you involved with any charitable organizations? Probe: Which organizations? Probe: How did you start? /How did you hear about them? Probe: How long? Probe: Monetary or volunteering? Probe: What types of communities do they serve? Probe: If not currently, details about organizations you have been a part of in the past. Probe: What motivates you to donate to an organization? a. Why these things?

2) How do you react to direct mail promotions? Probe: How do you react to door-to-door solicitors? 3) How do you donate? (Online or in person) Probe: How do you feel about donating to not-for-profit organizations?

Probe: Donating money? Probe: Donating food? Probe: Donating clothing? Probe: Donating time? 4) What do you think of when you hear “Little Sisters of the Poor? Probe: What type of organization do you think it is?


If you heard an organization was run by Nuns, what would your impressions be? Probe: Why? Previous experiences? Other organizations? Probe: Who would they be serving? Probe: Would you be willing to participate in this organization?

6) How do you feel about the current state of support for the poor population in Chicago? Probe: what are the disadvantages and advantages for the support of the poor in your opinion? Probe: what aspects of supporting the poor do you think are the most important?

7) How do you feel about the current state of elderly care in Chicago? Probe: what are the disadvantages and advantages to elderly care in your opinion? Probe: what aspects of an elderly care institution do you think are the most important? 8) Do you have an individual income of more than 50,000K?


Do you have any religious ties? Probe: Do you attend religious services regularly?

References Breeze, B. (2010). How donors choose charities: Findings of a study of donor perceptions of the nature and distribution of charitable benefit. Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy. Occasional paper 1. Dolnicar, S. Lazarevski, S. (2009) "Marketing in non-profit organizations: an international perspective", International Marketing Review, Vol. 26 Iss: 3, pp.275 - 291. Grau, S. Garretson, J. Pirsch, J. (2007). Cause-Related Marketing: An Exploratory Study of CampaignDonation Structures Issues. Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, Vol. 18 (2). Hibbert, S. Horne, S. (1996). "Giving to charity: questioning the donor decision process", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 13 Iss: 2, pp.4 – 13. Niekerk,V. (2007). Not-for-profit marketing: branding, brand equity and marketing of smaller charities. University of South Africa. Nowak, L.Washburn, J. (2000). Marketing Alliances Between Non-Profits and Businesses: Changing the Public's Attitudes and Intentions Towards the Cause. Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing.Vol. 7 Issue 4, p33. Stafford, Edwin R. and Cathy L. Hartman. 1996. ‘‘Green Alliances: Strategic Relations Between Businesses and Environmental Groups.’’ Business Horizons (March-April): 50-59.