Donor misreporting: conceptualizing social desirability bias in giving surveys

Zoe Lee, Lucy Woodliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (SciVal)
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Although survey research is one of the most frequently used methods for studying charitable giving, the quality of the data is seldom stated or known. In particular, social desirability bias (SDB) has been found to distort data validity where respondents tend to over-report what is socially desirable and vice versa. We argue that this phenomenon has not been fully understood in the nonprofit context as existing social desirability scales are not appropriate to be used in giving surveys. Thus, this paper is the first to extend understanding of SDB to the nonprofit context and to explore its motivating factors. Based on a multidisciplinary literature review and qualitative interviews with various senior practitioners from the fundraising and marketing research sectors, it is suggested that SDB is a multidimensional construct yielding five dimensions, namely, impression management, self-deception, level of involvement, perceived benefits and social norms. The paper then discusses the implications for nonprofit researchers and concludes with directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-587
Number of pages19
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Sustainability
  • social desirability
  • misreporting
  • measurement
  • giving surveys


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