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Small matches and charitable giving: Evidence from a natural field experiment

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Listed:
  • Karlan, Dean
  • List, John A.
  • Shafir, Eldar

Abstract

To further our understanding of the economics of charity, we conducted a natural field experiment. Making use of two direct mail solicitations sent to nearly 20,000 prior donors to a charity, we tested the effectiveness of $1:$1 and $1:$3 matching grants on charitable giving. We find only weak evidence that either of the matches work; in fact, for the full sample, the match only increased giving after the match deadline expired. Yet, the aggregation masks important heterogeneities: those donors who are actively supporting the organization tend to be positively influenced whereas lapsed givers are either not affected or adversely affected. Furthermore, some presentations of the match can do harm, e.g., when an example amount given is high ($75) and the match ratio is below $1:$1. Overall, the results help clarify what might cause people to give and provide further evidence that larger match ratios are not necessarily superior to smaller match ratios.

Suggested Citation

  • Karlan, Dean & List, John A. & Shafir, Eldar, 2011. "Small matches and charitable giving: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 344-350.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:5:p:344-350
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2010.11.024
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daniel Rondeau & John List, 2008. "Matching and challenge gifts to charity: evidence from laboratory and natural field experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 253-267, September.
    2. Andreoni, James & Payne, A. Abigail, 2011. "Is crowding out due entirely to fundraising? Evidence from a panel of charities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 334-343.
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    4. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December.
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