What if the company’s “Charity of the Year” deals with severe to moderate mental disability? A case study of fundraising problems and possibilities

Bennett, Roger and Vijaygopal, Rohini (2019). What if the company’s “Charity of the Year” deals with severe to moderate mental disability? A case study of fundraising problems and possibilities. Journal of Social Marketing, 9(2) pp. 161–179.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/JSOCM-01-2019-0004


Purpose: This paper explores the use of an ABC social marketing intervention to rescue a failing corporate “charity of the year” exercise that involved a mental disability charity. It describes the improvements experienced consequent to the introduction of volunteer “charity ambassadors” appointed to champion the charity’s cause.

Design/methodology/approach: The study revolved around company employees’ responses to an open-ended question concerning their attitudes towards people with mental disabilities. A semi-automated qualitative research technique (structural topic modelling [STM]), was used to analyse the replies both pre- and post-intervention. Regression analyses were undertaken to explain whether employees’ replies to the question fell in specific categories.

Findings: The intervention was successful. Employees’ attitudes regarding mentally impaired people shifted substantially away from fear and towards feelings of benevolence and compassion. Employees’ financial donations to the charity increased significantly consequent to the intervention. Levels of benevolence and compassion depended significantly on participants’ prior exposure to people with mental disabilities, gender, and degree of involvement in activities associated with the intervention.

Research limitations: Stakeholders other than employees were not sampled. Open-ended responses to a single question can oversimplify complex issues.

Practical implications: Outcomes to the research demonstrate how charity ambassadors can induce positive attitudes and behaviour towards an “unpopular cause”.

Originality and value: The results highlight some of the problems attached to corporate sponsorship of unpopular causes. A relatively recently developed open-ended qualitative research technique, STM, was used to examine employees’ attitudes. Classifications of findings emerged from the data and did not depend on a predetermined coding scheme.

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