Men give more money through fundraising websites after seeing that other men have donated large amounts and when the fundraiser is an attractive woman, according to research from University College London and the University of Bristol.
Each web page included a photo of the fundraiser, whose attractiveness was rated on a scale of 0 to 10 by four independent reviewers.
The study found that people on average gave about £10 more after seeing large donations – of more than £50 – made by other people. But when large donations were made by men to attractive female fundraisers, any subsequent donations from other men were an average of £28 higher.
Nichola Raihani, co-author of the report and a Royal Society university research fellow at UCL, said in a statement that the study did not find that women reacted in a similar way when the fundraiser was an attractive man.
For each fundraising page, researchers calculated the average donation from up to 10 donations before a large sum was given. The responses of up to 15 donors after the large donation were then studied in 12 categories, defined by the gender and attractiveness of the fundraiser and the gender of the person who made the large donation.
For both men and women, fundraisers who were smiling in their pictures on their fundraising pages were perceived to be more attractive than those who were not, and therefore received more donations, researchers found.
Sarah Smith, another co-author of the report and a professor of economics at the University of Bristol, said the research showed that men had an innate desire to signal that they were the most generous of their peers.
She said charities could take advantage of this by putting out fundraising messages that tapped into men’s competitiveness in this area. She said that research on attractiveness conducted in the US showed that attractive women were likely to be more successful door-to-door fundraisers.
"I’m sure charities are trying to get attractive people – physically and personality-wise – to go round door-to-door because it means that people are likely to give more," she said.
She also said in a statement: "On a practical level, there are implications for how fundraisers can raise more money for charities. To London Marathon fundraisers, I would say get your generous friends to donate early and make sure you put up a good picture – preferably one in which you are smiling."