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How Can Bill and Melinda Gates Increase Other People's Donations to Fund Public Goods?

  • Karlan, Dean S.
  • List, John

We develop a simple theory which formally describes how charities can resolve the information asymmetry problems faced by small donors by working with large donors to generate quality signals. To test the model, we conducted two large-scale natural field experiments. In the first experiment, a charity focusing on poverty reduction solicited donations from prior donors and either announced a matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or made no mention of a match. In the second field experiment, the same charity sent direct mail solicitations to individuals who had not previously donated to the charity, and tested whether naming the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the matching donor was more effective than not identifying the name of the matching donor. The first experiment demonstrates that the matching grant condition generates more and larger donations relative to no match. The second experiment shows that providing a credible quality signal by identifying the matching donor generates even more and larger donations than not naming the matching donor. Importantly, the treatment effects persist long after the matching period, and the quality signal is quite heterogeneous--the Gates’ effect is much larger for prospective donors who had a record of giving to 'poverty-oriented' charities. These two pieces of evidence support our model of quality signals as a key mechanism through which matching gifts inspire donors to give.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8922.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8922
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  1. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
  2. 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.
  3. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  4. James Andreoni, 2006. "Leadership Giving in Charitable Fund-Raising," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(1), pages 1-22, 01.
  5. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2008. "Is a Donor in Hand Better than Two in the Bush? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 14319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. John List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Natural Field Experiments 00472, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2006. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," Working Papers 1, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. John A. List & Anya Savikhin Samek, 2014. "The Behavioralist as Nutritionist: Leveraging Behavioral Economics To Improve Child Food Choice and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 20132, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2003. "Rebate versus matching: does how we subsidize charitable contributions matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 681-701, March.
  10. 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(5-6), pages 344-350, June.
  11. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  12. Gerald E. Auten & Holger Sieg & Charles T. Clotfelter, 2002. "Charitable Giving, Income, and Taxes: An Analysis of Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 371-382, March.
  13. Randolph, William C, 1995. "Dynamic Income, Progressive Taxes, and the Timing of Charitable Contributions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 709-38, August.
  14. Omar Al-Ubaydli & Steffen Andersen & Uri Gneezy & John List, 2012. "Carrots That Look Like Sticks: Toward an Understanding of Multitasking Incentive Schemes," Natural Field Experiments 00455, The Field Experiments Website.
  15. Dean Karlan & Margaret A. McConnell, 2012. "Hey Look at Me: The Effect of Giving Circles on Giving," Working Papers 1006, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  16. Stephan Meier, 2006. "Do subsidies increase charitable giving in the long run?: matching donations in a field experiment," Working Papers 06-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  17. 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.
  18. Karlan, Dean S. & McConnell, Margaret, 2012. "Hey Look at Me: The Effect of Giving Circles on Giving," CEPR Discussion Papers 8785, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. repec:feb:artefa:0090 is not listed on IDEAS
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