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Charitable Giving as a Gift Exchange - Evidence from a Field Experiment

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  • Armin Falk

Abstract

This study reports data from a field experiment that was conducted to investigate the relevance of gift-exchange for charitable giving. Roughly 10,000 solicitation letters were sent to potential donors in the experiment. One third of the letters contained no gift, one third contained a small gift and one third contained a large gift. Whether a potential donor received a letter with or without a gift was randomly determined. We observe strong and systematic effects from including gifts. Compared to the no gift condition, the relative frequency of donations increased by 17 percent if a small gift was included and by 75 percent for a large gift. Consequently, including gifts was highly profitable for the charitable organization. The contribution of this paper is twofold: first, it shows that reciprocity is an important motive for charitable giving, in addition to the warm-glow motive. Second, the paper confirms the economic relevance of reciprocity by using field data. This extends the current body of research on reciprocity, which is almost exclusively confined to laboratory studies.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 168.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:168

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Keywords: charitable giving; field experiments; reciprocity; warm glow;

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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, George & Riedl, Arno, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-59, May.
  2. repec:att:wimass:9406 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  4. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2000. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0008, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  7. James Andreoni, 1994. "Warm-Glow versus Cold-Prickle: The Effects of Positive and Negative Framing on Cooperation in Experiments," Experimental 9410002, EconWPA.
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Cited by:
  1. Akçomak, İ. Semih & ter Weel, Bas, 2012. "The impact of social capital on crime: Evidence from the Netherlands," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 323-340.
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, . "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior - Testing ‘Conditional Cooperation’ in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 162, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. John A. List, 2005. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," NBER Working Papers 11616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Philip Brown & Jessica Minty, 2006. "Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp855, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  5. Stephan Meier & Alois Stutzer, . "Matching Donations - Subsidizing Charitable Giving in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 181, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Jeroen Bergh, 2011. "Environmental Policy Theory Given Bounded Rationality and Other-regarding Preferences," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 49(2), pages 263-304, June.
  7. Rachel Croson & Enrique Fatas & Tibor Neugebauer, 2006. "An Experimental Analysis Of Conditional Cooperation," Working Papers. Serie AD 2006-24, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  8. Alain Samson & Orlando Wood, 2010. "Behavioral economics: a primer," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 33114, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Francis Kamarz (editor) & Joshua D. Angrist & David M. Blau & Armin Falk & Jean-Marc Robin & Christopher R. Taber, 2006. "How to do empirical economics," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, vol. 30(2), pages 179-206, May.
  10. Fischbacher, Urs & Gächter, Simon, 2006. "Heterogeneous Social Preferences and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods," IZA Discussion Papers 2011, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Briers, Barbara & Pandelaere, Mario & Warlop, Luk, 2007. "Adding exchange to charity: A reference price explanation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 15-30, January.
  12. Säve-Söderbergh, Jenny, 2005. "Who is Willing to Let Ethics Guide His Economic Decision-Making? Evidence from Individual Investments in Ethical Funds," Working Paper Series 7/2005, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
  13. Akcomak, Semih, 2009. "Bridges in social capital: A review of the definitions and the social capital of social capital researchers," MERIT Working Papers 002, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

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