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Toward an understanding of why suggestions work in charitable fundraising: Theory and evidence from a natural field experiment

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  • Edwards, James T.
  • List, John A.

Abstract

People respond to those who ask. Within the charitable fundraising community, the power of the ask represents the backbone of most fundraising strategies. Despite this, the optimal design of communication strategies has received less formal attention. For their part, economists have recently explored how communication affects empathy, altruism, and giving rates to charities. Our study takes a step back from this literature to examine how suggestions–a direct ask for a certain amount of money–affect giving rates. We find that our suggestion amounts affect both the intensive and extensive margins: more people give and they tend to give the suggested amount. The resulting insights help us understand why people give, why messages work, and deepen practitioners' understanding of how to use messages to leverage more giving.

Suggested Citation

  • Edwards, James T. & List, John A., 2014. "Toward an understanding of why suggestions work in charitable fundraising: Theory and evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 1-13.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:114:y:2014:i:c:p:1-13
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2014.02.002
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:1:p:397-408 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Anya Samek & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2017. "Selective Recognition: How to Recognize Donors to Increase Charitable Giving," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(3), pages 1489-1496, July.
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:1-18 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Chuan, Amanda & Samek, Anya Savikhin, 2014. "“Feel the Warmth” glow: A field experiment on manipulating the act of giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 198-211.
    5. Lenka Fiala & Charles N. Noussair, 2017. "Charitable Giving, Emotions, And The Default Effect," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1792-1812, October.
    6. van Rijn, Jordan & Quinones, Esteban J. & Barham, Bradford L., 2017. "An Experimental Test of Gender Differences in Charitable Giving: Empathy Is at the Heart of the Matter," Staff Paper Series 586, University of Wisconsin, Agricultural and Applied Economics.
    7. Ekström, Mathias, 2018. "The (un)compromise effect," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 10/2018, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics, revised 16 May 2018.
    8. Park, Sangkon & Nam, Sohyun & Lee, Jungmin, 2017. "Charitable giving, suggestion, and learning from others: Pay-What-You-Want experiments at a coffee shop," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 16-22.
    9. Tianshu Sun & Susan Feng Lu & Ginger Zhe Jin, 2015. "Solving Shortage in a Priceless Market: Insights from Blood Donation," NBER Working Papers 21312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Sun, Tianshu & Lu, Susan Feng & Jin, Ginger Zhe, 2016. "Solving shortage in a priceless market: Insights from blood donation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 149-165.
    11. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:57:y:2019:i:2:p:876-889 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Jingping Li & Yohanes E. Riyanto, 2017. "Category Reporting In Charitable Giving: An Experimental Analysis," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(1), pages 397-408, January.
    13. Name-Correa, Alvaro J. & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2016. "“Giving” in to social pressure," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 99-116.
    14. Indranil Goswami & Oleg Urminsky, 2016. "When should the ask be a nudge? The Effect of Default Amounts on Charitable Donations," Natural Field Experiments 00659, The Field Experiments Website.
    15. Lisa Bruttel & Florian Stolley & Verena Utikal, 2019. "Getting a Yes: An Experiment on the Power of Asking," CEPA Discussion Papers 02, Center for Economic Policy Analysis.
    16. Gneezy, Uri & Rau, Holger & Samek, Anya & Zhurakhovska, Lilia, 2017. "Do I care if you are paid? A field experiment on charitable donations," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 307, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Charitable giving; Public economics; Impure altruism;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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