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Can tailored communications motivate volunteers? A field experiment

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  • Al-Ubaydli, Omar
  • Lee, Min

Abstract

Over 25% of the US population volunteers. Clary et al. (1998) devised a survey that identifies a volunteer’s primary motive for volunteering. We investigate the effect of tailoring the communications that volunteers receive from their organizations (e.g., printed newsletters, update emails) to each volunteer’s stated motive for volunteering affects volunteer performance. We find that in general, such tailoring has no effect, but that for volunteers who are motivated primarily by the pursuit of career-related benefits, such tailoring can have a substantial, positive effect on hours volunteered. We also find that the (in)effectiveness of this tailoring does not depend upon the volunteers’ knowledge of the tailoring. The tailoring of communications does not involve the explicit manipulation of material incentives. This renders it particularly attractive given the emergence of evidence on how extrinsic incentives can crowd out intrinsic incentives, especially in the domain of charitable contributions.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 30343.

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Date of creation: 16 Apr 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:30343

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Keywords: volunteering; charitable contributions; priming; stereotype;

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  1. Jean Tirole & Roland Bénabou, 2006. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1652-1678, December.
  2. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Linardi, Sera & McConnell, Margaret A., 2011. "No excuses for good behavior: Volunteering and the social environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 445-454.
  4. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
  5. Cummings, Ronald G, et al, 1997. "Are Hypothetical Referenda Incentive Compatible?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 609-21, June.
  6. Craig Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2005. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 11611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Menchik, Paul L. & Weisbrod, Burton A., 1987. "Volunteer labor supply," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 159-183, March.
  8. Duncan, Brian, 1999. "Modeling charitable contributions of time and money," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 213-242, May.
  9. Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," NBER Working Papers 5435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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