“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


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
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Early online date11 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2023

Bibliographical note

This research was supported by a startup grant from City University of Hong Kong (7200738) awarded to the first author and a research grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (GRF 12501722) awarded to the first author, a research grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (GRF 16501920) awarded to the second author, a Lam Woo Research Fund (LWP20020) and a Direct Grant from Lingnan University (DR22A4) awarded to the third author, and research grants from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (GRF 15504619 and GRF 15510022) to the fourth author. The first three authors contributed equally to this research. The authors thank the editors, the associate editor, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and guidance throughout the review process. The authors also express their appreciation to Christine Kim and Dengfeng Yan for their insightful comments on the early version of this research. Supplementary materials are included in the web appendix accompanying the online version of this article.


  • semantic framing
  • crowdfunding
  • want versus need
  • dependency


Dive into the research topics of '“Want” versus “Need”: How Linguistic Framing Influences Responses to Crowdfunding Appeals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this