Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Attitudes of Donors and Non-Donors to the March of Dimes Charity in the United States: A Case Study in Non-Profit Marketing

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Attitudes of Donors and Non-Donors to the March of Dimes Charity in the United States: A Case Study in Non-Profit Marketing

Article excerpt

This article compares current donors, lapsed donors and nondonors to the March of Dimes. Demographic characteristics, donation motives, likelihood of satisfying these motives through donating to a charitable organization and the level of concern about a variety of health issues were compared. The three groups placed similar importance on some motives but demonstrated significant differences on others. Current donors generally placed more importance on motives. Current donors were also more likely to believe that donating to the organization would satisfy donation motives. Significant differences emerged with respect to nine of eighteen health issues; in all cases donors were more concerned than nondonors.


On a warm summer day in 1921 Franklin D. Roosevelt became a victim of polio. Seventeen years later he established the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, a blend of scientists and volunteers, to light polio. The entertainer Iiddie Cantor assumed the role of fundraiser, asking the public to send in their dimes to President Roosevelt. This effort was called "The March of Dimes" and became the new name for the National Foundation. In 1949 it funded Dr. Jonas SaIk to lead research and in less than 10 years the disease was all but vanquished. Having achieved this milestone, the March of Dimes repositioned itself to lead the way to saving babies from birth defects. Currently there are three main avenues in which the organisation operates. The primary one is premature births where the bulk of the funds are expended on research. A second area is a global mission where, with world partners, the March of Dimes provides information about cost-effective interventions that can improve infant health in Latin America, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. The third avenue is government advocacy where the March of Dimes focuses on "public policies and programs that relate to the Foundation's mission of improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality" (

While the problem of prematurity has been an important target for the March of Dimes mission because of its close relationship to birth defects, infant mortality and low birth weight, the organization's future now centers around the problems associated with premature births. Approximately 470,000 babies are born prematurely and the rate is increasing, now affecting one out of eight babies. These premature babies can suffer lifelong consequences such as mental retardation, blindness, chronic lung disease and cerebral palsy. The March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign is a five-year, $75 million research, awareness and education campaign to help families have healthier babies ( This commitment requires significant public fundraising.

Americans have traditionally been generous with their time and money. For instance, according to a survey by the Johns Hopkins University, 73% of Americans gave money to charity in 1999, which was equivalent to one-third of the domestic federal budget, or 20% of the national income (Greenfield 2000). Historically, faith based giving dominates in the United States with 43% of all charitable contributions. However, there are indications that philanthropy appears to be heading for a period of significant change, especially from the standpoint of non-faith based organizations.

A major sign is the economic downturn that caused many local agencies to fall shy of their goals (Davenport 2001). The economy and philanthropy are inextricably linked; when the economy slows, so does discretionary income to donate. Additionally, George W. Bush, first as a candidate and then as president, indicated that because faith-based organizations have already shown their ability to save and change lives, favored a further increase in their role to address social problems. Consequently he established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives dedicated to encouraging religious organizations to seek billions in federal dollars for helping address social problems. …

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