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Involvement in Causes Can Trigger Individual Behavior Changes

More than half of Americans say they have changed their health, civic, environmental or social behavior because of their involvement in a cause

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans who donate, volunteer or otherwise support a cause may be looking to impact the world around them, but new research shows that they may find that the experience of being involved in a cause actually impacts their own behavior as well. According to new findings from the Dynamics of Cause Engagement study, conducted jointly by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, more than half of Americans (52%) say they have changed their actions or behavior because of their involvement in a cause. The study examined trends in cause involvement among American adults age 18 and over as well as the role of a variety of activities in fostering engagement with social issues.

Nearly half of Americans (48%) report changing their voting behavior as a result of being involved in a cause, making it the most common type of behavior change. Changing recycling habits (40%), becoming more energy efficient (34%) and becoming more tolerant of differing opinions (25%) also neared the top of the list. Health-related behaviors, such as changing one’s physical activity (12%), visiting a medical professional (9%) or requesting a specific medical test or screen (8%), fall lower on the list.

Behavior Changes by Ethnicity
Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics are equally likely to have changed their behavior as a result of cause involvement; however, within the categories of actions taken there are some significant differences. African Americans and Hispanics are significantly more likely than Caucasians to agree that they have changed the way they behave toward others (25% and 24%, vs. 18%), while Caucasians are significantly more likely to have made environmental behavior changes (e.g., changing recycling habits, becoming more energy efficient). African Americans also are significantly more likely than either Caucasians or Hispanics to have visited a doctor or medical professional as a result of their involvement in a cause (15%, vs. 9% each).

Behavior Changes by Gender
Findings also highlight gender differences when it comes to cause-driven behavior change. American women are significantly more likely than men to say they have changed their behavior due to cause involvement, including environmentally conscious actions (e.g., changing recycling habits, becoming more energy efficient) and health-related behaviors (e.g., modifying diet or physical activity). Women also are significantly more likely than men to say they have switched to brands that support causes they support.

Silent Generation Getting Out the Vote
Voting is the number one behavior change reported to be triggered by cause involvement across all ages, ethnicities and genders, according to the survey—with percentages appearing to increase with age. While younger generations—Gen X (ages 30 to 45) in particular—are more likely than older generations to say they have changed their behavior due to cause involvement, it is the Silent Generation (ages 60 and older) that is significantly more likely than Baby Boomers or generations X and Y to have voted as a result of cause involvement.


Contact
julie Dixon, Deputy Director, Center for Social Impact Communication
Email: jld227@georgetown.edu Phone: +1 202.687.8552

About the Survey
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication developed the study with the objectives of showcasing trends in cause involvement and evaluating the role of a variety of activities in fostering engagement. An online survey was conducted by TNS Global among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Americans ages 18 and over. The survey was fielded November 30 to December 22, 2010, and has a margin of error of +/-2.2% at the 95% confidence level. Throughout this report, an asterisk ‘*’ next to a number indicates a significant difference from the corresponding audience at the 95% level of confidence.

Generation Definitions
• Gen Y (Ages 18 to 29)
• Gen X (Ages 30 to 45)
• Baby Boomers (Ages 46 to 60)
• Silent Gen (Age over 60)

The final report summarizing all research findings and offering insight for organizations and practitioners will be released in the upcoming weeks.

About the Center for Social Impact Communication
Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC) is the nation’s leading educational resource on social impact communication. Launched in 2008 and housed in the Master of Professional Studies program in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, CSIC aims to elevate the discipline by pioneering industry standards in responsible communication practices and by educating and inspiring the professionals who lead the way in creating positive social impact through their work. For more information, visit csic.georgetown.edu.  

Twitter: @georgetowncsic

About Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (Ogilvy PR) is a global, multidisciplinary communications leader operating in more than 80 markets. For more than two decades, Ogilvy PR has been at the forefront of social marketing—advancing personal and public health and safety and broader socially desirable goals via communications initiatives. We have developed numerous social marketing campaigns to successfully raise awareness, educate and prompt action regarding some of today’s largest and most complex issues, ranging from cancer to cardiovascular health, substance abuse to homeland security, youth violence prevention to disaster preparedness, and much more.

Named Large Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and PRNews, Ogilvy PR is a unit of Ogilvy & Mather, a WPP company (NASDAQ: WPPGY), one of the world’s largest communications service groups. For more information, visit www.ogilvypr.com and smexchange.ogilvypr.com  

Twitter: @ogilvypr and @OgilvyDC