The “digital revolution has created a new economy. It goes by many names — gig economy, sharing economy, collaborative economy, on-demand economy” (Smith, 2017, para. 3). Whatever you call it, this new structure for exchange, made possible by advances in technology and driven primarily by millennials — “the first generation of digital natives [to] come of age …, is redefining the ways people live and work” (Smith, 2017, paras. 3-4).

As explained by Möhlmann (2015)this new economy is composed of users instead of buyers. Their collaborative consumption, further defined by Belk (2014) as “people coordinating the acquisition and distribution of a resource for a fee or other compensation” (p. 1597), has created a new marketplace where access replaces ownership, flexibility supersedes stability, and community is more highly valued than consumption. Users in the sharing economy pay attention to the fact that collaborative consumption helps them to save money and is therefore in their self-interest.

Collaborative consumption is now well-settled in five sectors, according to The Digital Consumer: “peer-to-peer accommodation, peer to-peer transportation, on-demand household services, and on-demand professional services and collaborative financing." The consumers of the new economy are also sharing assets (e.g., cars, rooms, appliances); reusing assets (e.g., second-hand clothes, furniture); and prolonging the useful life of other items through maintenance, designing for durability, upgrading, etc. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015).

A 2016 survey of American adults on the scope and impact of the shared, collaborative, and on-demand economy, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that in total, 72% had used at least one shared or on-demand service (Smith).

Research has found that saving money, convenience, and sustainability are the top drivers of sharing behavior (Dellaert 2019; Eckhardt et al. 2019). Status is also a key element here: According to a 2015 study by Samuel, about a third of customers would consider sharing instead of buying if the service offered them access to brand-name goods or services. On the other side, about a third would switch back from sharing to buying if it offered an easier path to getting what they want (para. 6).

Möhlmann (2015) showed that trust also has an important role to play in users’ satisfaction. “Trust” and “community belonging” clearly play a substantial role in an individual’s decision to participate in philanthropy, too. As does “reputation,” as we will see later on.

In this article, I do not argue that the determinants/mechanisms of sharing and giving definitively overlap, or that they are operationally the same. However, my concern is whether or not these similarities might mean that sharing activity negatively influences giving behavior.

Read the full article about nonprofit research by Sedat Yuksel at Johnson Center for Philanthropy.