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Business or Basic Needs? The Impact of Loan Purpose on Social Crowdfunding Platforms

Abstract

Crowdfunding has created new opportunities for poor microentrepreneurs. One crucial question is the impact that the purpose of a loan—either business investment or basic necessities—may have on the success of a campaign. Investigating a prosocial crowdfunding platform, we find that loans taken out to meet basic needs are funded faster than business-related loans, especially for small amounts, which can be explained by the prosocial motivation of microlenders. Moreover, female microborrowers are funded faster than men, especially for basic needs loans. Our results therefore suggest an ethical blind spot, since prosocially motivated crowdlenders may unintentionally end up producing adverse effects, replicating gender role by supporting women to a lesser extent when they apply for business loans. This finding expands prosocial motivational theory in ethical finance.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Prosocial motivation used to be conceptualized as intrinsic motivation. With the development of SDT, recent studies have stressed that prosocial motivation actually corresponds to an internalized extrinsic motivation (Grant 2008; De Cooman et al. 2011).

  2. 2.

    In the 2012existing literature, this type of funding is also referred to as a business-purpose loan (for example, in Johnston & Morduch, 2008) or as a loan for productive purposes (Imai and Azam , inter alia). Nevertheless, the meaning is essentially the same.

  3. 3.

    To a large extent, the two coders allocated loan activities in the same way. The few items that were not coded similarly were discussed with the third author.

  4. 4.

    The eight world regions are determined by Kiva.

  5. 5.

    With this exact-matching process, we sought to find campaigns that were as similar as possible by controlling for multiple dimensions, including: both campaigns raising the exact same amount (to the dollar) and the same percentile of number of competing loans in the same sector and world region. This very precise matching increases the validity of the results, yet comes at the cost of reducing the sample size. However, although the sample may seem small compared to the whole dataset used in this paper, it is still a large sample that leaves us with high enough power for computing robust statistical tests.

  6. 6.

    We do not present a matching analysis for the effect of size on the dependent variable, since it is not relevant in this setting. However, the results can be provided on request.

  7. 7.

    Compared to the baseline (a male borrower asking for a basic necessity loan), the coefficient associated with a male borrower asking for a business loan is, as expected, significantly higher (βBusiness = 0.09, p = 0.011).

  8. 8.

    Nayebpour and Koehn (2003) call upon this concept, for example in the case of total quality management (TQM), since TQM’s customer focus may result in other key stakeholders being ignored.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Zineb Aouni, Judith Behrens, Oscar Bernal, Marc Labie, Marthe Nyssens, Patrick Reichert, Ariane Szafarz and Vera Rocha for their very useful comments. Hadar Gafni has started this research during a research stay at CERMi, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Anaïs Périlleux carried out this research in the framework of an Action de Recherche Concertée programme (grant n°19/24-101) from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles entitled Platform Regulation and Operations in the Sharing Economy (PROSEco). We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. Hadar Gafni, Marek Hudon and Anaïs Périlleux have contributed equally to this work.

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Gafni, H., Hudon, M. & Périlleux, A. Business or Basic Needs? The Impact of Loan Purpose on Social Crowdfunding Platforms. J Bus Ethics 173, 777–793 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04530-4

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Keywords

  • Crowdfunding
  • Business loans
  • Basic necessities
  • Ethical finance
  • Microfinance
  • Microlending
  • Gender preference