Graduation Year

2003

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Phil., Derina R. Holtzhausen D. Litt et

Keywords

public relations, marketing, charitable organizations, mixed motive model, situational theory of publics

Abstract

Throughout the history of the United States, Americans customarily have given away their money, as well as their time to serve the common good. Americans will give "to build something, to fight something, or to save something" (Fink, 1990, p. 136). They make gifts to causes, or the societal problems represented by organizational missions, that are important to them. Individuals give not only to advance a common good, but also to receive private goods, or benefits that are internal, intangible, and in some cases, tangible (Steinberg, 1989). To create this feeling of reciprocity for prospective donors who have not actually benefited from the organization, charitable organizations attempt to attract these individuals by providing them with a benefit from the organization as a result of their donation of time or money.

A benefit many individuals are now receiving as a result of their donations is the personal association, real or perceived, with a celebrity (Wheeler, 2002). Preliminary empirical evidence suggests that celebrities are more effective as endorsers when they are personally connected to a cause not only because they help raise awareness for the cause, but they also have a perceived higher level of involvement in the organization. To date, most celebrity endorsement research remains in the field of marketing, while fund raising is more effective when discussed from the public relations perspective (Kelly, 1991, p. 163). However, there currently is no discipline-specific public relations theory that merges the concept of celebrity endorsement with the concepts of symmetrical and asymmetrical fund raising.

Fortunately, the interdisciplinary nature of public relations fosters the use of theoretical constructs from other areas of the social sciences, including marketing research (Werder, 2003). The mixed motive model of public relations (Dozier, L. Grunig, & J. Grunig, 1995) provides a framework when it is adapted to guide celebrity endorser fund raising success on a continuum between marketing and public relations. This study did not find support for the integrated communication model of celebrity endorsement fund raising since no significant differences existed between the different endorsers ability to increase the active seeking of information and acting on that information, information processing, and willingness to donate money and volunteer time for a charitable organization.

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