“Want” versus “Need”: How Linguistic Framing Influences Responses to Crowdfunding Appeals

Lei SU*, Jaideep SENGUPTA, Yiwei LI, Fangyuan CHEN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This research uses a crowdfunding context to examine when and why a simple difference in frame—using “want” versus “need” in the request—affects funders’ compliance with an appeal for contributions. Building on the semantic framing and psycholinguistics literature, we propose that using “want” (versus “need”) signals that the fundraiser is a relatively less (vs. more) dependent person. This perception difference then exerts opposing effects on the two major forms of crowdfunding appeals. For reward-based appeals, in which fundraisers promise a return on contribution, funders have a for-profit (i.e., incentive-seeking) goal and are more willing to contribute to a less dependent fundraiser. In contrast, for donation-based appeals, in which no incentives are promised by the fundraisers, funders are primarily motivated by a non-profit (i.e., helping) goal, and are more willing to contribute to a fundraiser who is seen as more dependent on help. Therefore, we predict that a “want” (“need”) frame is more effective in reward-based (donation-based) crowdfunding. Results from two large-scale observational studies and four experiments support our predictions and also illuminate the underlying mechanisms. Collectively, the findings contribute to the literature on semantic framing and crowdfunding, and also offer practical implications for fundraisers, marketers, and policymakers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-944
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number5
Early online date11 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • semantic framing
  • crowdfunding
  • want versus need
  • dependency


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