The price of beauty: Differential effects of design elements with and without cost implications in nonprofit donor solicitations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Research on the optimization of donation solicitations has focused on language and content rather than appearance. The present work considers how a solicitation's appearance influences donor response. The results indicate that potential donors make inferences about the soliciting organization based on the aesthetics of the solicitation materials. In general, highly aesthetic elements increase perceptions of organizational professionalism, which consequently leads to greater donations. However, aesthetic enhancement can backfire; when high levels of aesthetics with cost implications (e.g., embossed cardstock, gold ink) are combined with high levels of aesthetics without cost implications (e.g., attractive background, appealing font), perceptions of organizational wastefulness discourage donations. Thus, the most effective solicitation is not the most beautiful but rather one offering high levels of aesthetics without cost implications and low levels of aesthetics with cost implications. The studies demonstrate these effects in the field and in the lab and also identify moderators of the negative effect of aesthetics with cost implications on donations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)794-815
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017



  • Aesthetics
  • Design
  • Donation solicitations
  • Frugality
  • Nonprofit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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