Saving the Masses: The Role of Perceived Efficacy in Charitable Giving


People tend to be more sympathetic and generous to single than to multiple beneficiaries. We identify one factor—perceived efficacy—that when increased can enhance giving to multiple beneficiaries and reverse people’s tendency to give more to single than to multiple beneficiaries. In four studies, we find that: (1) single beneficiaries are associated with higher efficacy perceptions than are multiple beneficiaries; (2) increasing perceived efficacy attenuates people’s tendency to help single rather than multiple beneficiaries by increasing giving to multiple beneficiaries; (3) giving to multiple beneficiaries can exceed giving to single beneficiaries when perceived efficacy is increased; and (4) the effect of increased efficacy on giving is mediated by emotional concern.