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Does price matter in charitable giving? Evidence from a large-scale natural field experiment

  • Dean Karlan
  • John List

We conducted a natural field experiment to explore the effect of price changes on charitable contributions. To operationalize our tests, we examine whether an offer to match contributions to a non-profit organization changes the likelihood and amount that an individual donates. Direct mail solicitations were sent to over 50,000 prior donors. We find that the match offer increases both the revenue per solicitation and the probability that an individual donates. While comparisons of the match treatments and the control group consistently reveal this pattern, larger match ratios (i.e., $3:$1 and $2:$1) relative to smaller match ratios ($1:$1) had no additional impact. The results have clear implications for practitioners in the design of fundraising campaigns and provide avenues for future empirical and theoretical work on charitable giving. Further, the data provide an interesting test of important methods used in cost-benefit analysis.

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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00279.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00279
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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  1. 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.
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  8. David Lucking-Reiley & John List, 2002. "The effects of seed money and refunds on charitable giving: Experimental evidence from a university capital campaign," Natural Field Experiments 00301, The Field Experiments Website.
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  14. David C. Ribar & Mark O. Wilhelm, 2002. "Altruistic and Joy-of-Giving Motivations in Charitable Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 425-457, April.
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  18. Kingma, Bruce Robert, 1989. "An Accurate Measurement of the Crowd-Out Effect, Income Effect, and Price Effect for Charitable Contributions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1197-1207, October.
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  21. Clotfelter, Charles T., 1985. "Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226110486.
  22. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L., 1992. "Valuing public goods: The purchase of moral satisfaction," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 57-70, January.
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  24. 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.
  25. Sugden, Robert, 1984. "Reciprocity: The Supply of Public Goods through Voluntary Contributions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 772-87, December.
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  27. 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.
  28. 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.
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