Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Management Science

First Advisor

Keshavamurthy Ramamurthy

Committee Members

Hemant Jain, Derek Nazareth, Mark Srite, Sung Kim


Charity Website, Online Donations, Persuasion, Website Design


This dissertation, which comprises three essays, examines the effects of charity website characteristics on people's attitudes and online donation behaviors based on the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion (Essay 1), the halo effect (Essay 2), and self-schema, congruity, and visual rhetoric (Essay 3).

Essay 1: The Elaborating Role of Personal Involvement with Charity Giving and Helper's High on the Effects of Website Quality: Multiple Roles of Variables

Although the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) has been utilized for decades, researchers have not leveraged its full capabilities and richness in understanding the multiple roles postulate and employing the central and peripheral routes to persuasion. The central theme of this study is that cues can assume multiple roles, serving as central or peripheral cues, depending on an elaboration state. Moreover, this study asserts that a variable cannot be determined as a central or peripheral cue without consisting the elaboration state and associated theoretical explanations. This study theorizes and empirically tests the multiples roles postulate in the context of charity website and online donations. Using websites as a persuasion channel, this study investigates the effects of charity website quality, consisting of information content quality and system quality, on attitude toward the charity website, which in turn influences willingness to donate to the charity website. In keeping with the multiple roles postulate, this research investigates two charity-specific motivational constructs, personal involvement with charity giving and helper's high as elaboration states, proposing that people with high personal involvement are more likely to be persuaded by information content, including financial, performance, and donation information. Likewise, individuals who reflect greater helper's high, will rely more on system quality characteristics (including navigability, download delay, visual aesthetics, and security) in evaluating and forming their attitudes toward the charity websites. The results of structural equation modeling supported all hypotheses. This study extends the ELM by supporting the multiple roles postulate that has not received adequate attention in prior research and introducing charity-specific elaboration motivations.

Essay 2: Beautiful is Good and Good is Reputable: Multi-Attribute Charity Website Evaluation and Reputation Formation under the Halo Effect

The halo effect has been extensively employed to understand how people make judgments of quality about an object. However, there is little research on how people evaluate multi-attribute objects and what types of salient halos exist in their evaluation. In addition, little research has investigated the initial reputation formation of an unknown object. Based on these two research lacuna, the purposes of this study is to identify if there are evidences of various salient halos in evaluating multi-attributes objects and to theorize initial reputation formation. To accomplish these research objectives, this study employs charity websites as a multi-attribute donation channel consisting of three dimensions of information contents (mission, financial, and donation assistance information) and four dimensions of system functionalities/features (i.e., navigability, download speed, visual aesthetics, and security). This study proposes collective halo, aesthetics halo, two-sided quality halo, quality halo, and reputation halo in the context of charity website evaluation. The results of structural equation modeling and other analyses show evidence of the proposed halos.

Essay 3: The Effects of Schema Congruity and Visual Consistency on Social Judgment of Charity Websites

Effectively designed websites can positively enhance the donors' perceptions so as to facilitate online donations. Drawing on extensive research on self-schema, congruity, and visual rhetoric, this study examines the effects of schema congruity (SC) and visual consistency (VC) on the perceived warmth and competence of charity websites. This study theorizes schema-visual congruity, an interaction between SC and VC. Using a controlled lab experiment, this study finds significant main effects of schema congruity and visual consistency on perceived warmth and competence. Also, there is a positive interaction between SC and VC, supporting the need for schema-visual congruity as a determinant of perceived warmth and competence. Consistent with prior eCommerce and donation research, this study finds that positive perceptions of charity websites (i.e., warmth and competence) increase attitude toward donation to the website, which in turn influences donation intention.