IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Do Sympathy Biases Induce Charitable Giving? The Effects of Advertising Content




We randomize advertising content motivated by the psychology literature on sympathy generation and framing effects in mailings to about 185,000 prospective new donors in India. We find significant impact on the number of donors and amounts donated consistent with sympathy biases such as the “identifiable victim,” “in-group” and “reference dependence.” A monthly reframing of the ask amount increases donors and amount donated relative to daily reframing. A second field experiment targeted to past donors, finds that the effect of sympathy bias on giving is smaller in percentage terms but statistically and economically highly significant in terms of the magnitude of additional dollars raised. Methodologically, the paper complements the work of behavioral scholars by adopting an empirical researchers’ lens of measuring relative effect sizes and economic relevance of multiple behavioral theoretical constructs in the sympathy bias and charity domain within one field setting. Beyond the benefit of conceptual replications, the effect sizes provide guidance to managers on which behavioral theories are most managerially and economically relevant when developing advertising content.

Suggested Citation

  • K. Sudhir & Subroto Roy & Mathew Cherian, 2014. "Do Sympathy Biases Induce Charitable Giving? The Effects of Advertising Content," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1940, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jan 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1940

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Charitable giving; Sympathy biases; Identified victim effect; Non-profit marketing; Advertising; Behavioral economics; Conceptual replications;

    JEL classification:

    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • M37 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Advertising
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing
    • C99 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Other

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1940. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Matthew Regan). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.