Motivating individuals to give

Microvolunteering and crowdfunding sites like IOBY have been receiving a generous number of volunteers and donations. Why then do these individuals give? In this post, I will start by sharing my experiences of volunteering and my own motivations. Following that, I will explore the factors that motivate individuals and use Ioby as a case study. Let me begin! ūüėÄ

Personally, there have been various things that motivate me to participate! Moments I have volunteered:

  1. Soup kitchen: Waking up at 6 am in the morning, I would go to soup kitchen to help cut the vegetables or open cans for the chefs who prepare food for the less fortunate. I realised that I usually go because my friends go too.
  2. Asian Women Welfare Association: When I volunteered at AWWA, I was motivated to go because I really desired to help children. The satisfaction it brought to see the joy on their faces was worth the journey there after school every week!
  3. Promoting and selling tarts to raise funds: I do this yearly to support my aunt who is struggling financially.

This reflection reminded me of two psychology terms I have learnt before. They are:

A) Kin altruism : Naturally, we are drawn to help people whom we are related too (e.g. how I helped my aunt) [1]. Research has revealed that many crowd-funders receive funds from family and friends [2]. This table shows the percentage of who people were usually asked by to donate and the percentage that they gave to the cause:

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.01.38 pm.png
Source: Payne, A. et. al (2011)

From this table, we can conclude that people often have a highly chance of giving when asked by someone who is closer to them. The levels of trust and intimacy decrease as we go down that table. As such, individuals feel more secure donating when asked by someone related/close to them.

B)¬†Reciprocity : For social relations that are non-kin [3], Trivers (1971) concept of reciprocity applies. According to Trivers [10], reciprocity is defined as ‘the process¬†that favors costly cooperation among reciprocating partners, or the idea of ‘fair exchange’ [4]. Research has shown that volunteering helps the contributor in his own well-being as it reduces stress and increases self esteem through empowerment [9]. ¬†This helps motivate individuals who gain nothing tangible from helping to gain something intangible instead! Similarly, my volunteering in AWWA may have been out of the desire to know more about children behavior and to also enjoy the joys from serving. This simple diagram shows the mechanism behind a reciprocal relationship:Reciprocal_altruism_summary.svg

These two main theories can be seen in crowdsourcing for environmental sustainability in Ioby as well! According to a report titled “My Idea is our idea! Supporting user-drive innovation activities in crowdsourcing communities” [5], the authors identified various factors that measures how successful online crowdsourcing sites will be. These factors are:

A) The norm of collaboration

The ideas of reciprocity and fairness mentioned earlier are important to motivate individuals to give of their services/money. The culture of collaboration may take time to kick off and the community needs to encourage each other via word-of-mouth. If community gardens have grown to be a thing, the norm of contribution is already there and will make sites like Ioby more attractive. I think current infrastructures are also important to facilitate the birth of norms. For example, in Singapore, I know that there are ways to express my interest for a cause through various charities. Schools and businesses with corporate social responsibility encourage individuals to give back to society. As such, the norm of volunteering is cultivated over time.

B) Trust in the host (crowd-funder/ crowd-sourcer)

Often, when I take surveys on volunteering/donating, I often select the option “I value the legitimacy of the cause”. Trust is a very important criteria because people do not like to be cheated. ¬†It is harder to trust someone online whose identity is sealed [6]. In order to build trust, sites like Ioby¬†have¬†blogs that are regularly updated. These blogs share the success stories of projects. They also have a tab for each project that requires crowdsourcer to update on their project. This system of accountability is crucial for people like myself. Other trends I have observed include AirBnb’s identity verification. These systems increase trust in the host.

C) Perceived ease of use 

For sites that are cluttered, non-user friendly and inconvenient, people will find it a hassle to adopt the platform. As such, the site has to be pretty idiot-proof. Having a comprehensive Q&A page and clear tabs are a few characteristics a good site would have. Furthermore, payment methods and verifications (stated in (B)) cannot be overly restrictive and time consuming. Ioby did a pretty good job with effective filters for projects and clear call-to-action buttons!

D) Support for knowledge integration

Besides the technology-based support, knowledge-based support is also crucial according to Kosonen [7]. Kosonen describes that good knowledge-based support allows participants to understand complex task. The description of projects need to be crystal clear and understandable. Projects that have no clear direction will lose out because they will lose their legitimacy and individuals cannot make a clear rational decision if they can commit or not[8]! Some Ioby projects do list clearly their budget plans and the task they want volunteers to do:

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.45.24 pm.png
Budget for a sharing eco-library
Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.46.45 pm.png
Project to help aerial monitoring of oiled-wetlands. Volunteers will conduct training sessions




However, not every project stated their purpose clearly. Ioby could give guiding questions to help projects better standardise the information that they provide!

Crowdsourcing sites can consider all these criteria to develop a platform that is holistic and inviting! This reflection really helped me understand better that building trust is not that simple and requires a lot of factors especially for online crowdsourcing sites. What are the factors that motivate you to volunteer or donate? Are they similar? Share it with me below ūüôā

[1] Silk, J. B. (2013). Reciprocal Altruism. Current Biology, 23(18), R827-R828. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from

[2]¬†Payne, A.,¬†Scharf, K.¬†and¬†Smith, S.¬†(2011). ‚ÄėSurvey of online fundraisers, donors and sponsors – summary of responses‚Äô, Retrieved on February 20, 2015 from¬†

[3] T. Clutton-Brock (2009).¬†‘Cooperation between non-kin in animal societies’¬†Nature, 462 (2009), pp. 51‚Äď57

[4] Wasko, MM and S Faraj (2000). “It is what one does”: Why people participate and help others in electronic communities of practice. Joumal of Strategic Information Systems, 9(2-3), 155-173.

[5] Kosonen, M., Gan, C., Olander, H., & Blomqvist, K. (2013). My Idea Is Our Idea! Supporting User-Driven Innovation Activities In Crowdsourcing Communities. Int. J. Innov. Mgt. International Journal of Innovation Management, 17(03), 1340010-1340028. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from

[6] Beldad, A, M de Jong and M Steehouder (2010). How shall I trust the faceless and the intangible? A literature review of the antecedents of online trust. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 857-869.

[7] Kosonen, M., Gan, C., Olander, H., & Blomqvist, K. (2013). My Idea Is Our Idea! Supporting User-Driven Innovation Activities In Crowdsourcing Communities. Int. J. Innov. Mgt. International Journal of Innovation Management, 17(03), 1340010-1340028. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from

[8] Hsu, M-H, T Ju, C-H Yen and C-M Chang (2007). Knowledge sharing behavior in virtual communities: The relationship between trust, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations. Intemational Joumal of Human-Computer Studies, 65, 153-169.

[9] Keyes, Corey L. M. (Ed); Haidt, Jonathan (Ed), (2003). Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived. , (pp. 227-247). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, xx, 335 pp.

[10] Trivers, R. (1971) The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35-56.


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