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Do Beliefs About Peers Matter for Donation Matching? Experiments in the Field and Laboratory

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  • Laura Gee
  • Michael Schreck

Abstract

Charitable giving has been about 2% of US GDP since the turn of the century. A popular fundraising tool is donation matching where every dollar is matched by a third party. But field experiments find that matching does not always increase donations. This may occur because individuals believe that peer donors will exhaust the matching funds. We develop a theory of how beliefs about peers' donations affect one's own likelihood of donation. We test our theory using novel "threshold match" treatments in field and laboratory experiments. These treatments form small groups and offer a flat matching bonus if a threshold number of donations is received. One "threshold match" treatment more than doubles the donation rate in the field relative to no match. To better understand the mechanism behind this huge increase, we use a lab study to replicate the field results and further show that beliefs about peers' donations matter. Our theoretical, lab, and field results combined suggest people are more likely to donate when they believe they are more pivotal to securing matching money. Beliefs about others matter, and they should be taken into account when trying to increase donations.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Gee & Michael Schreck, 2016. "Do Beliefs About Peers Matter for Donation Matching? Experiments in the Field and Laboratory," Framed Field Experiments 00538, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00538
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    1. Adena, Maja & Huck, Steffen, 2019. "Personalized fundraising: A field experiment on threshold matching of donations," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2019-306, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    2. Chen, Si & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2018. "Looking at the bright side: The motivation value of overconfidence," DICE Discussion Papers 291, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    3. Adena, Maja & Hakimov, Rustamdjan & Huck, Steffen, 2020. "Charitable giving by the poor: A field experiment in Kyrgyzstan," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2019-305r, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    4. John List, 2020. "2020 Summary Data of Natural Field Experiments Published on fieldexperiments.com," Natural Field Experiments 00714, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. Adena, Maja & Hakimov, Rustamdjan & Huck, Steffen, 2019. "Charitable giving by the poor: A field experiment on matching and distance to charitable output in Kyrgyzstan," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2019-305, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

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