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Explaining unrestricted giving by charitable foundations: A transaction cost approach


  • Thornton, Jeremy


This paper extends a transaction costs framework to the nonprofit sector where information asymmetries are typically acute. I explore the decision of charitable foundations to place material restrictions on grants to nonprofits. Foundations often place constraints on grant use to limit cross-subsidy of projects or ex-post opportunism by nonprofit managers. In contrast, nonprofits prefer fewer restrictions to smooth income across revenue streams or compensate for shifts in demand. The paper utilizes a pseudo panel of 6000 grant contracts to examine the relationship between the various costs of those restrictions and the observed characteristics of grant contracts. Empirical results confirm received theory that high contracting costs will reduce the probability of grant restrictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Thornton, Jeremy, 2010. "Explaining unrestricted giving by charitable foundations: A transaction cost approach," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 44-53, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:28:y:2010:i:1:p:44-53

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-795, December.
    2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Not-for-profit entrepreneurs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 99-115, July.
    3. Williamson, Oliver, 2009. "The Theory of the Firm as Governance Structure: From Choice to Contract," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 6, pages 111-134, December.
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    5. Williamson, Oliver E, 1979. "Transaction-Cost Economics: The Governance of Contractural Relations," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 233-261, October.
    6. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    7. Aggarwal, Rimjhim M., 2007. "Role of risk sharing and transaction costs in contract choice: Theory and evidence from groundwater contracts," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 475-496, July.
    8. Fisman, Raymond & Glenn Hubbard, R., 2005. "Precautionary savings and the governance of nonprofit organizations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2231-2243, December.
    9. Bilodeau, Marc, 1992. "Voluntary contributions to united charities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 119-133, June.
    10. Barzel, Yoram, 1982. "Measurement Cost and the Organization of Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 27-48, April.
    11. repec:hrv:faseco:33078971 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Jeremy Thornton, 2008. "Competition, Contractibility, and the Market for Donors to Nonprofits," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 215-246, May.
    13. George P. Baker & Thomas N. Hubbard, 2003. "Make Versus Buy in Trucking: Asset Ownership, Job Design, and Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 551-572, June.
    14. George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213-213.
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