Crowdfunding? A question of Personal Branding, Researchers Say

Self-presentation and online ‘personal branding’ is shown to have a significant effect on the behaviour of funders, a brand-new research by University of Portsmouth confirms.

According to the findings of a recent research by University of Portsmouth, published in the Computers in Human Behavior, people who are more image conscious tend to support more crowdfunding campaigns.


Computers in Human Behavior’s Cover.

Funders who have a public profile containing a photo are more likely to be image conscious and will engage in significantly greater levels of visible funding activity compared with those without, a public release states.

However, the amount of non-visible activity – the amount of money contributed to each project – is lower among those with photos than those without.

Lead author of the study Dr Joe Cox, Principal Lecturer in Economics and Finance at the University of Portsmouth, said:

On the basis of our work, we conclude that self-presentation and online ‘personal branding’ is shown to have a significant effect on the behaviour of funders. This behaviour is partly influenced by a person’s desire for image enhancement and their motivations to improve social image.


The study used data from an online pro-social lending crowdfunding platform, known as Lendwithcare, where details on the number of loans made by an individual are displayed publicly while the amount of money given is not.

Dr Cox currently holds the position of Research Lead for the Economics and Finance subject group at Portsmouth Business School.

By combining the results of a survey with contributors with recorded patterns of actual funding activity, the researchers were able to show that self-presentation associates with significant variations in the behaviour of online funders, especially in terms of their visible and non-visible activities.


Dr Cox explained:

By contrast, we found no evidence of significant variations in lending behaviour according to levels of income, social capital or religiosity. These factors have been shown to relate positively and significantly to pro-social behaviours and philanthropy in offline settings, suggesting that the relationships between these variables may be different in online contexts.

Dr Cox added:

These findings contribute to the emerging research on digital philanthropy and self-presentation in online environments. Our research also highlights how platform owners can potentially influence the behaviour of self-presenting users by encouraging their funders to think carefully about the creation of public profiles, while also making strategic decisions as to the lending activities that should be made publicly visible.


Although the potential for image enhancement has long been considered one of the key motivations for prosocial behavior in conventional offline settings, comparatively little evidence exists as to whether the same assumptions hold for online interactions. Our study addresses this gap in the literature by investigating whether self-presentation leads to variations in prosocial behaviors among contributors to online pro-social crowdfunding campaigns. We present an analysis of data from the Internet crowdfunding platform ‘Lendwithcare’, which combines the results of a tailored survey with recorded patterns of actual funding activity. By using the presence of a publicly visible lender profile as a proxy for image consciousness, we hypothesize that self-presenting funders will increase levels of visible activity (number of loans made), but will not vary levels of non-visible activity (average monetary value of each loan) relative to other funders. We find empirical evidence that is largely consistent with our hypotheses. Our findings are likely to be of interest to both academics and practitioners seeking to better understand funder motivations and prosocial behaviors in online settings.


Cox, J, Nguyen, T, Thorpe, A, Ishizaka, A, Chakhar, S & Meech, L 2018, ‘Being seen to care: the relationship between self-presentation and contributions to online pro-social crowdfunding campaigns‘ Computers in Human Behavior. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2018.01.014