Nostalgia and giving to charity: a conceptual framework for discussion and research

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  • Nostalgia and givingw




    nostalgia evoked by certain NPOs (not-for-profit organizations) is likely to have a bearing

    y evoking nostalgia, certain NPOs are likely to



    givers only give small amounts to charities. It

    not-for-profit organizations (NPOs) is toincrease the amount of giving among currentgivers and to attract new and younger givers.

    International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector MarketingInt. J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mark. 13: 1330 (2008)Published online 17 August 2007 in Wiley InterScience( DOI: 10.1002/nvsm.300

    E-mail: amerchan@odu.eduyDoctoral Student in Marketing.zProfessor of Marketing and International Business, OldDominion University.the last 30 years (Burke, 2001). Philanthropicinstitutions have found it increasingly difficultto raise needed funds from givers (Eikenberry,2005). In fact, this has been seen in othercountries as well. Over the past 10 yearscharities in the U.K. have also been finding itincreasingly difficult to raise funds (Sargeant

    has been shown that individuals give less than2% of their personal income to charities(Burke, 2001). Second, the bulk of givers areolder adults (Kottasz, 2004). Third, there hasbeen an increase in the number of charitableorganizations (Sargeant et al., 2000), whichraises the competitive intensity across a largernumber of organizations fighting for a share ofa limited pool of donor funds. The picture isnot a promising one.The key challenge for MarketingManagers of

    *Correspondence to: Altaf Merchant, Department ofBusiness Administration, College of Business and PublicAdministration, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA23529, USA.Charitable giving has stagnated in the U.S. overCopemotionally engage their current and potential donors, which could facilitate the creation

    of long-term intimate relationships between themand their donors. However, the extent to

    which the NPO can evoke nostalgia is likely to depend upon the nostalgia proneness of the

    donor, the emotional importance of the past experiences evoked by the NPO, and the

    characteristics of the NPO such as the extent to which the NPO can alleviate the feelings of

    alienation, discontinuity, and the need for authenticity experienced by the donor. The

    paper provides a series of research propositions and proposes a research agenda.

    pyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    roduction et al., 2000). There are a number of reasons forthis malaise in giving. First of all, many currentthe donor commitment to the NPO. Thus bon both emotional and familial utility derived by the donor. This in turn is likely to drivea conceptual framediscussion and reseAltaf Merchant*,y and John FordzDepartment of Business Administration, College

    Dominion University, USA

    Academicwork involving nostalgia has shproposes a conceptual model that links noyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Intto charity:ork for


    f Business and Public Administration, Old

    n it to evoke a basket of emotions. This paper

    talgia to charitable giving. We argue that the. J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mark., February 2008

    DOI: 10.1002/nvsm

  • suggest how nostalgia may affect charitable

    14 Altaf Merchant and John FordTo achieve this, NPOs are urged to engage theirgivers with appeals that interest and involvethem. They can facilitate this engagementthrough the identification of emotional con-structs that can drive commitment to NPOsand increase charitable giving. Recently,Sargeant et al. (2006) proposed a perceptualmodel of donor giving behavior which showedsignificant linkages between such perceptualdimensions as emotional utility (giving to feelbetter about oneself) and familial utility (givingconnected to a family member affected by thecause associated with the charity) and commit-ment which in turn was found to drive donorgiving.While this study took amajor step in theright direction, the authors noted thatadditional research into other driving percep-tual constructs is warranted.One such potentially relevant affecting

    construct is nostalgia. Academic work invol-ving nostalgia has shown it to be a verypowerful array of emotions (Davis, 1979;Gardener, 1985). It evokes a poignant mixtureof mental pain and joy (Frued, 1926; Akhtar,1996). The American Heritage Dictionary(1972) defines nostalgia as a longing forthings, persons, or situations that are notpresent. It is basically a longing for a perceivedutopian past (Bassin, 1993; Batcho, 1998)without the actual acceptance that it is gone(Kaplan, 1987). Nostalgia has been found toaffect old and young alike (McCann, 1941), andit appears to be not only a longing for a pastwhich has been personally experienced, but italso represents a longing for a lost pastparadise (Peters, 1985) which one has neveractually been experienced (Stern, 1992). Thereis an increasing use of nostalgia in themarketing of consumer goods (Baker andKennedy, 1994). A good example of this canbe seen in the attempt to reenact the reunionwith the lost past with appeals of vintage retro(Bassin, 1993), traditions, rituals, and the idealimages of the American community. One caneasily see these attempts in the use of the songsof the 1960s and 1970s and the strongemotional connections made between the pastand such products as automobiles, hamburgers,and soft drinks. If a song was associated withCopyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Intgiving and also to discuss ways in which thecharacteristics of the donors and NPOs couldinfluence this relationship.The rest of the paper is structured as follows.

    A detailed discussion of the nostalgia literatureis presented. This is then followed with aproposed conceptual model that links nostal-gia and giving to charity. A series of 11 researchpropositions are then justified and presentedwhich are connected to the various linkagesshown in the proposed model.


    There is much academic discussion on nos-talgia. Many scholars have described it as a fataldisease, which everyone experiences at onetime or another (Hoffer, 1934). Many othershave called it a hook of continuity in changingtimes (Tannock, 1995). They argue that themore dissatisfied consumers are with life as it istoday, the more they will want to revert backto the ways of the past (Baker and Kennedy,1994). Still others argue that since babyboomers are approaching middle age, theyare becoming increasingly nostalgic (Ungeret al., 1991; Stern, 1995). As a result, there is agrowing interest in the use of nostalgia inmarketing (Baker and Kennedy, 1994).warm actual or perceived memories, theattaching of the song to a product or servicecan trigger warmth and positive feelings aboutthe associated product or service.What might the connection be between

    nostalgia and charitable giving behavior?Sargeant et al. (2006) suggest that familialutility may actually be affected by nostalgiasince desire for the situation experienced orperceived to have been experienced when aloved onewas still alive may influence giving inmemory of that loved one. However, theauthors are not aware of any research that hasbeen done to understand the relationshipbetween the experience of nostalgia andcharitable giving and the factors that influencethis relationship. The contribution of this studylies in its attempt to explain nostalgia and to. J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mark., February 2008

    DOI: 10.1002/nvsm

  • of an uncertain future (Nawas and Platt, 1965).

    Nostalgia and giving to charity 15There are four broad definitions of nostalgia.The first is the temporal definition: A positivefeeling for the past, with a negative feeling for

    the present or future . . . THINGS WEREBETTER . . ..THEN THAN NOW (Davis, 1979,page 18). The second focuses on the emotionsfelt while experiencing nostalgia: A wistfulmood that may be prompted by an object, a

    scene, a smell or a strain of music (Belk,1990, page 670). Holbrook and Schindler(1991), define nostalgia on the bases of whatcued the occurrence of nostalgia: A preferencetoward objects that were more common

    when one was younger. Finally Holbrook(1993) provides a more comprehensive defi-nition: A longing for the past or a fondnessfor possessions and activities associated with

    the days of past (page 245).There are cognitive as well as affective

    dimensions to the experience of nostalgia(Werman, 1977; Baumgartener, 1992). Thecognitive side focuses on the memories ofthe past and the affective side involves theemotions that these memories evoke. Researchhas shown that by stimulating the consumersmemory, they can be made to feel theemotions they felt when they had the originalexperience (Braun-LaTour and LaTour, 2005).The emotions that are associated with nostal-gia are complex. The nostalgic experiencedoes not comprise all positive emotions, but itis a bittersweet experience (Davis, 1979).Nostalgia evokes both positive and negativeemotions (Holak and Havlena, 1992). Byremembering the past the person feelswarmth, joy, and affection (Holak and Havlena,1998). At the same time there is a feeling ofsadness and loss with the realization that thepast cannot be recreated (Holak and Havlena,1998).Nostalgia is evoked by a variety of triggers

    (Schindler and Holbrook, 1993; Holbrook andSchindler, 2003). Nostalgia can be triggered bysensory experiences (pleasurable sensorialexperiences from the past), links with theindividuals homeland (bonding with objectsassociated with a distant land), items thatremind the individual of rites of passage,friends, and loved ones (objects representingCopyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. IntIt also helps alleviate feelings of loneliness(Lomsky-Feder and Rapoport, 2000). Whenpeople feel lonely they tend to remember pastevents with friends and family and relive thetimes which were happier. The personalnostalgia an individual experiences is influ-enced bymany factors, including age, nostalgiaproneness, intensity of personal experiences,and discontinuity.close social relationships), objects linked withaspects of continuity and security, and itemsassociated with the arts, culture, and entertain-ment (mental or spiritual freedom). Research-ers have also found that men and women havedifferent triggers for nostalgia (Baker andKennedy, 1994). There are two types ofnostalgia, personal or direct nostalgia andvicarious nostalgia.

    Personal nostalgia

    This is based on the persons direct experi-ences. It is a longing for the lived past (Bakerand Kennedy, 1994) and the things, memories,and people associated with this past (Gould-ing, 2001). Personal nostalgia is a search for anidealized past. The person experiencing thiskind of nostalgia remembers things and eventsmore positively than they actually were.The individual experiencing nostalgia feelswarmth, happiness, and joy along with a senseof loss that the past is not going to return. Theylook to the past as if it represents the waythings should always be and regret the fact thatthings have changed (Bricklin, 2001; Stern,1995). Therefore, the person experiencingnostalgia is not only looking for the object ofnostalgia but the time before it was lost(Akhtar, 1996; Lomsky-Feder and Rapoport,2000). Personal nostalgia serves differentfunctions. It serves as an anchor of continuityand identity (Rubin et al., 1998) duringchanging circumstances in life (Noble andWalker, 1997). When circumstances change,people feel insecure and unsure of themselvesand therefore tend to revert to the memories ofthe past for comfort and support amidst fears. J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mark., February 2008

    DOI: 10.1002/nvsm

  • (1995) found that young college students were

    examined nostalgia as a personality trait. This

    16 Altaf Merchant and John Fordfound to be more nostalgic than the elderlygiven certain subjects. Larsen et al. (2001)measured the emotions felt by studentsgraduating and the emotions felt by studentsmoving out of their dormitories. These in-stances made the individuals feel the emotionsof nostalgia. The respondents were found toexperience both the positive emotion ofhappiness and the negative emotion of regretat the same time.

    Nostalgia proneness

    Some individuals show higher propensities orproneness for nostalgia than others (Holbrook,1993). Therefore, even among the same agegroup some individuals may be more nostalgicthan others. Nostalgia proneness is thus a facetof a persons personality. Holbrook (1993,p 246) defined nostalgia proneness as a facetof individual charactera psychographicvariable, aspect of life-style, or general custo-mer characteristic-that may vary among con-sumers. Batcho (1998) also showed that aperson highly prone to nostalgia, rather thanbeing depressed, would have a better capacityfor emotionality. Therefore, he or she wouldbe very happy when experiencing happinessand very sad when experiencing sadness. HisAge

    Is personal nostalgia purely a factor of aging?Certainly as people age, they develop apreference for bygone days (Davis, 1979).Those born between 1946 and 1964, referredto as baby boomers, frequently rememberevents and feelings shared among them byrecalling the days gone by. Some say thatnostalgia is a part of the normal aging process.For example, Batcho (1995) found that aspeople age they got more nostalgic andremembered the times of their youth withconsiderable nostalgia as they entered olderstage in life. However, some studies show thatnostalgia is not purely a function of age.Nostalgia rises and wanes across different agegroups depending on the experiences and thedemands imposed by life. For example, BatchoCopyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Intscale looked at personal nostalgia and segre-gated individuals into high nostalgia and lownostalgia groups. Individuals who were in thehigh nostalgia group perceived the past asmore favorable that those in the low nostalgiagroup (Batcho, 1998). Therefore, people whoare more prone to nostalgia are more open tonostalgic appeals, branding strategies, andadvertising (Zimmer et al., 1999). For the highnostalgia prone individuals, the consumptionof goods and services acts as a means ofexperiencing nostalgia (Holbrook and Schind-ler, 2003). They are more open to nostalgicappeals and hence consume products whichenable them to experience nostalgia.

    Personal experience

    Nostalgia is influenced by personal experi-ence. The more intense the past experiences,the stronger the memories associated withthose experiences (Baumgartener, 1992; Loms-ky-Feder and Rapoport, 2000). Events whichhave been more intense or more significant areretained (hence more vivid) in the autobio-graphical memory more than less intense andless important events (Sehulster, 1989). In astudy of the recall of 25 seasons of Metropo-litan opera, Sehulster (1989) found thatindividuals recalled those seasons better whichwere associated with intense emotions oror her capacity to feel emotions more intenselywould increase the likelihood of the individualto experience both the sweet and the bitteremotions of nostalgia.Holbrook (1993) developed a nostalgia

    proneness scale, which is widely usedand cited. This scale utilizes a battery of20 questions that...


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