8 in 10 American women believe that supporting causes creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life; and feel everyone can make a difference through their support

Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2011) — American women are strong believers in the power of individuals to make a difference by supporting causes, while their male counterparts are more likely to view supporting causes as a fad, according to new data released today by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication. The findings are part of the larger Dynamics of Cause Engagement study, conducted among American adults age 18 and older in late 2010, which explored trends in cause involvement and the roles of a variety of activities in fostering engagement with social issues.

Similarities and Differences in Cause Support

In addition to believing that everyone can make a difference by supporting causes, American women are more likely than men to believe that supporting causes creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life, makes them feel good about themselves and makes them feel like part of a community. More than four in ten Americans (45%) are actively involved with supporting causes, and women make up a significantly larger part of this group than men.

Men and women are generally in agreement when it comes to which particular causes they choose to support. For both, feeding the hungry andsupporting our troops are among those that rank the highest, and as expected, gender-related health issues like breast cancer and prostate cancer are significantly more likely to be supported by women and men, respectively. In addition, survey results indicate that women are more compelled to support youth-related causes like bullying and childhood obesity, while men are more likely to support the Tea Party movement.

Women and men also tend to agree on the ways in which they most often support their chosen causes. For both, more historically prominent ways of engaging with causes top the list, including donating money, talking to others, and learning more about the issues and impacts. Women, however, are significantly more likely than men to get involved by donating clothing and other personal items, and volunteering their time in support of causes.

Social Media and the Sexes

When it comes to social media, women are more likely than men to recognize the role that sites like Facebook can play in facilitating cause involvement. Two-thirds of women (65%) believe that social networking sites can increase visibility for causes, and six in ten (60%) believe they allow people to support causes more easily. It comes as no surprise, then, that women are more likely to support causes through promotional social media activities (e.g., joining a cause group on Facebook, posting a logo to a social profile, contributing to a blog) than men (17% vs. 12%, respectively). Women also turn to social media as a source of cause information more often than men—though for both, this lags far behind traditional TV and print
media sources and personal relationships.

Current perceptions of social media aren’t entirely rosy, though. Nearly three quarters of men and women (74% and 73%, respectively) agree that emails about causes can sometimes feel like spam, and about half of both populations admit that they get too many cause-related emails now (49% and 45%, respectively) and that everybody “likes” causes on Facebook and it does not really mean anything (48% and 49%, respectively). Practitioners should be wary of these indicators and ensure strategic uses of these digital tools in order to avoid unintentionally contributing to “cause fatigue.”

Women Support Companies that Support Causes

Cause marketers often target the female demographic with campaigns, and with good reason—survey results confirm that American women are significantly more likely than men to show their support of a cause by purchasing products or services from companies who support the cause. In addition, women are more likely to learn about causes through corporate partner or sponsor promotions, including advertisements, product packaging, and in-store displays.

Read more