The Role of Trust Management in Reward-Based Crowdfunding

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of trust management on the fundraising performance in reward-based crowdfunding.

Design/methodology/approach – A research model was constructed based on elaboration likelihood model (ELM) and literatures with five hypotheses developed. Data were collected from www.demohour.com - the first and one of the largest reward-based crowdfunding platforms in China. In total, 829 reward-based crowdfunding projects were analyzed to test hypotheses. To test the hypotheses, partial least squares was used to analyze data of entrepreneur/sponsor profiles, entrepreneur/sponsor behaviors, and crowdfunding projects.

Findings – Results indicated trust management significantly promoted fundraising performance via central (entrepreneur’s creditworthiness) and peripheral (entrepreneur-sponsor interactions) routes. The peripheral route (entrepreneur-sponsor interaction) showed significantly higher effects than the central route (entrepreneur’s creditworthiness). The finding aligns with authors’ assumptions derived from unique characteristics of reward-based crowdfunding – community and collaboration because personal, dynamic message interactions were more effective than static, historical success records on the trust establishment. In addition to the main effects, the results also showed entrepreneur’s prior success crowdfunding records positively moderated the effect of entrepreneur-sponsor interaction on fundraising performance.

Originality/value – This study is the first paper that reveals the value of trust management in reward-based fundraising, especially the effect of dynamic entrepreneur-sponsor message interactions. Entrepreneur-sponsor interactions not only promoted community benefits in crowdfunding, but also cultivated trust relationships between entrepreneurs and sponsors. Previous studies mainly focussed on the entrepreneur’s popularity level on third-party social media (such as Facebook) toward fundraising performance. This study examines the effect of direct entrepreneur-sponsor interactions on the crowdfunding platform. Additionally, this study found one moderating effect from the central route to the peripheral route. It is a rare case in studies based on ELM. Finally, this study demonstrates how to incorporate a theoretical framework guiding the analysis of structured and unstructured data for in-depth analysis, result interpretation, and corresponding intervention strategy development.