Reward-based crowdfunding is an alternative type of project financing in which a large and dispersed online crowd contributes relatively small financial amounts in exchange for innovative products or services. The crowd is driven by a broad set of motivations that also comprises sustainability awareness. However, empirical research on crowdfunding projects that feature social or environmental considerations provides inconclusive results. In our study, we enhance the understanding of whether a pro-social and pro-environmental orientation affects the performance of reward-based crowdfunding. We draw on the literature stream of social movements to explain how linguistic framing mobilizes individuals and relate this to how selection is enabled and action is guided in a crowdfunding setting. Based on a sample of 1049 projects from Kickstarter, we employ computer-aided text analysis (CATA) to capture the pro-social and pro-environmental orientation of the project descriptions and transcribed video pitches as linguistic constructs. We found that the level of pro-social or pro-environmental orientation has an inverted U-shaped effect on crowdfunding performance. Moreover, this relationship differs when crowdfunding projects feature a creative product or service idea. Our results suggest that entrepreneurs need to delicately balance a pro-social or pro-environmental orientation and find the “right” level of emphasis to create a competitive advantage.
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