JMCR Charity Values Project

Charity Values Project

Dr Helen Stride and Professor Malcolm Higgs (Management School, Southampton University)

The Charity Values Project is a joint collaboration between Henley Business School and the University of Southampton. The primary focus of the project is the role that values play in driving stakeholder commitment in UK charities. In particular, the project seeks to explore which values are driving the commitment of donors and whether there is a link between these values and the ones that underpin the commitment of staff. Based upon research conducted with over 600 staff, donors and supporters of UK charities, the project aims to publish a set of 3 papers to add to the body of knowledge in the area of values and behaviour. A brief summary of each paper is shown below.

Values and Staff Commitment

As staff behaviour is the most powerful way for an organisation to communicate its values to external stakeholders, the story must start with them. This paper (please see below) explores the concept of values fit which has been a significant theme in the organizational behavior literature for many years. It is argued that where there is alignment of staff and organizational values a range of positive outcomes are encountered. What is unclear is how this translates into the charity sector. This study explores the phenomenon of values alignment in two UK charities and their impact upon commitment. The findings show that alignment of staff values and perceptions of organization values is less important than organization and individual values irrespective of fit. In particular it is organization values such as social justice (universalism type values) and creativity (self-direction type values), and own values such as obedience (conformity type values) that have the greatest influence upon levels of staff commitment to charities.

Values and Donor Commitment

Whilst branding has been the vehicle through which many charities have traditionally sought to understand donor behaviour, this study specifically explores the role that values play. Drawing on self-concept theory, branding theory suggests that individuals look for attributes in products and organisations that reinforce their self-image (Hogg, Cox & Keeling 2000) and that this fit is a function of brand loyalty. As values are central to an individual’s identity (Rogers 2003), values play a crucial role in this process. There is evidence that this psychological process of building and reinforcing one’s self-image is as relevant in the charity sector as it is the commercial environment (Schwartz 1967; Sheth, Newman & Gross 1991). Unlike the research conducted with staff, this study found that values fit does play a role in driving behaviour. In particular it is alignment of own and organisation normative values such as humility and fairness that have the greatest impact.

Developing our Understanding of Values Based Brands

The third paper in the series brings together our learnings from the previous two papers to consider whether there is a relationship between the values that drive staff behaviour and those that drive donor behaviour (please see below). As hypothesised, values appear to be driving significant levels of stakeholder behaviour. It is not values in general however that are driving behaviour, but Schwartz’s universalism values (e.g social justice ) and self-direction values (e.g creativity). In the case of staff, organisation universalism values are driving over 30% of staff commitment. What is perhaps of greatest interest is that together with organisation self-direction values, donors own universalism values are driving over 10% of donor commitment. Therefore, whilst further research is needed, the initial suggestion is that the way in which the organisation’s values such as social justice are communicated via staff, may be having an impact upon donor behaviour.

Project Outputs

Academic Journal Papers

  • H.Stride, M. Higgs(2013) An Investigation into Values and Staff Commitment: a Study of UK Charities, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • H. Stride, S. Lee (2007) No Logo? No Way. Branding in the Charity Sector. Journal of Marketing Management Feb 2007, (23)
  • H. Stride (2006) An Investigation into the Values Dimensions of Branding: Implications for the Charity Sector. International Journal of Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, May 2006, (11)

Conference Papers

  • H. Stride and M. Higgs (2013) Developing our understanding of values based brands within the not-for-profit sector. Irish Academy of Management, Waterford (Full Paper)
  • H. Stride and M. Higgs (2012) An investigation into the relationship between values and donor commitment: a study of UK charities. Irish Academy of Management, Maynooth (Best Track Paper)
  • H. Stride and M. Higgs(2011) Exploring the relationship between values and behaviour: a study of staff and supporters in UK charities. Irish Academy of Management, Dublin (Full Paper)
  • H. Stride and M. Higgs (2010) Exploring the Importance of Shared Values in Determining Supporter Commitment to UK Charities. BAM, Sheffield (Full Paper)
  • H. Stride and M. Higgs (2009) Values and Staff Commitment in UK Charities. Irish Academy of Management, Galway (Full Paper)