Objectives: Blood donation is described as an archetypal altruistic behavior, and recruitment/retention campaigns emphasize altruism. Here, a benevolence hypothesis for blood donation (both the donor and recipient benefit) rather than the altruism hypothesis (only the recipient gains) is proposed.
Design: Three United Kingdom-based studies contrasted benevolence and altruism: (a) a 6-month prospective study of blood donor behavior (Study 1: N = 957), (b) a cross-sectional study of blood donors' intentions (Study 2: N = 333), and (c) an experimental study examining the effect of benevolent and altruistic messages on willingness to help across high- and low-cost helping behaviors for committed and noncommitted blood donors (Study 3: N = 200).
Main outcome: Donor behavior and intentions-willingness.
Measures: Beliefs in personal and societal benefit (Time 1) and actual donations (Time 2) were assessed in Study 1; beliefs in benevolence, altruism, hedonism, and kinship along with donation intentions were assessed in Study 2; and empathy, donor commitment, and willingness to donate blood, money, fund-raise, and staff a telephone helpline were assessed in Study 3.
Results: Beliefs in personal rather than societal benefit predicted actual future donation. A path model showed that only beliefs in benevolence were associated with intentions to donate. Committed blood donors were more willing to donate blood when exposed to a benevolent message rather than an altruistic one. This effect was not observed for other forms of helping.
Conclusions: The benevolence hypothesis is supported, suggesting that blood donor motivation is partly selfish. Blood donation campaigns should focus on benevolent rather than purely altruistic messages.