May 2008




Master of Arts (MA)


Dr. Faith Mullen

Primary Subject Area

Sociology, Organizational


Attribution theory, Bernard Weiner, Motivation, Philanthropy, Donation, Fundraising


Bernard Weiner’s work with attribution theory and help giving is used in this study to explore two research questions on communication in fundraising. First, the study looks at how communication from a cancer centre foundation effectively motivates their community and local philanthropists to give money to their program. The study also looks at how the donor’s response motivates the foundation to continue to attract donations. Three hypotheses were made and tested. This study started with a textual analysis of appeal letters from a cancer centre. Letters, based on the textual analysis, were then created as the variables for the study and given to the students to read and respond to by a survey which accompanied the letters. The survey was responded to by 184 students in a freshman university class. Two of the three hypotheses were proven correct. A textual analysis of the appeal letters showed the adversity of cancer, while identifiable victims were found as being more motivational than statistical victims when used in appeal letters. Personal experience however was not found to be the number one reason students would be motivated to make a donation to cancer instead it is said that the donor cares about cancer.