The Heart of Involvement: Empathy in Service and Philanthropic Organizations on the Pennsylvania State University Campus

Open Access
Walsh, Alexandra Ryan
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Jeffery Todd Ulmer, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stacy Silver, Honors Advisor
  • Empathy
  • service
  • philanthropy
  • leadership
  • gender
  • colleges
  • student organizations
How empathetic are the leaders of philanthropic and service organizations on the Penn State campus? This study sought to quantify the empathy levels of the leadership in service and philanthropic organizations in order to compare these levels and see if there is a significant difference in how empathetic leaders of philanthropies are in comparison to leaders of service organizations. The hypothesis was that service organization leaders would be more empathetic than leaders of philanthropic organizations. This was formulated in accordance with the idea that those who self-select themselves into positions that require more “hands on” work with affected populations will require a depth of understanding and a desire for closeness with others (key factors of empathy), while those who self-select into organizations that require less “hands on” work and instead focus more on fundraising will focus less on empathy. 44 participants from service organizations and 20 participants from philanthropic organizations provided responses to an online survey, which was slightly edited from the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire. The responses were quantified and calculated into means. The results did not confirm the hypothesis, instead affirming that service leaders are no more correlated toward empathy than leaders of philanthropic organizations. While organization type is not correlated to empathy score, gender was shown to be correlated with empathy.