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A Glimpse into the World of High Capacity Givers: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign

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  • Tova Levin
  • Steven Levitt
  • John List

Abstract

The wealthiest 10% of donors now give 90% of charitable dollars in the U.S., but little is known about what motivates them. This study uses a natural field experiment, tracking over five thousand high capacity donors, to lend preliminary insights into the world of high capacity givers. On some dimensions, high capacity donors mirror modal donors: there is persistence in giving patterns, signals of program quality influence giving, and the price of giving is not unduly important. Unlike typical small donors, the givers in our data respond only on the intensive margin, and often with a longer time lag. Our study highlights the value to practitioners of partnering with academics, as our intervention has generated $30 million in incremental donations to the University.

Suggested Citation

  • Tova Levin & Steven Levitt & John List, 2015. "A Glimpse into the World of High Capacity Givers: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Natural Field Experiments 00409, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00409
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John A. List & Azeem M. Shaikh & Yang Xu, 2019. "Multiple hypothesis testing in experimental economics," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 22(4), pages 773-793, December.
    2. Andreas Leibbrandt & John A. List, 2015. "Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(9), pages 2016-2024, September.
    3. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John A. List, 2015. "Do Natural Field Experiments Afford Researchers More or Less Control than Laboratory Experiments? A Simple Model," NBER Working Papers 20877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
    5. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2002. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 215-233, February.
    6. Ori Heffetz & John A. List, 2014. "Is The Endowment Effect An Expectations Effect?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(5), pages 1396-1422, October.
    7. 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.
    8. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 157-180, Spring.
    9. Hong, Fuhai & Hossain, Tanjim & List, John A., 2015. "Framing manipulations in contests: A natural field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 372-382.
    10. Jason M Cowell & Anya Samek & John List & Jean Decety, 2015. "The Curious Relation between Theory of Mind and Sharing in Preschool Age Children," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 10(2), pages 1-8, February.
    11. Jeffrey A. Flory & Andreas Leibbrandt & John A. List, 2015. "Do Competitive Workplaces Deter Female Workers? A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment on Job Entry Decisions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 122-155.
    12. Jonathan E. Alevy & Craig E. Landry & John A. List, 2015. "Field Experiments On The Anchoring Of Economic Valuations," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(3), pages 1522-1538, July.
    13. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
    14. Catherine C. Eckel & David H. Herberich & Jonathan Meer, 2016. "It's Not the Thought that Counts: A Field Experiment on Gift Exchange and Giving at a Public University," NBER Working Papers 22867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John A. List, 2015. "Do Natural Field Experiments Afford Researchers More or Less Control Than Laboratory Experiments?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 462-466, May.
    16. Zacharias Maniadis & Fabio Tufano & John A. List, 2014. "One Swallow Doesn't Make a Summer: New Evidence on Anchoring Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 277-290, January.
    17. Bruno Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "In a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00243, The Field Experiments Website.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ashley V Whillans & Elizabeth W Dunn, 2018. "Agentic appeals increase charitable giving in an affluent sample of donors," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(12), pages 1-10, December.
    2. Bittschi, Benjamin & Dwenger, Nadja & Rincke, Johannes, 2021. "Water the flowers you want to grow? Evidence on private recognition and donor loyalty," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 131(C).
    3. Butera, Luigi & Horn, Jeffrey, 2020. "“Give less but give smart”: Experimental evidence on the effects of public information about quality on giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 59-76.
    4. Castillo, Marco & Petrie, Ragan, 2020. "Optimal Incentives to Give," IZA Discussion Papers 13321, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Rossi, Mariacristina & Sansone, Dario & van Soest, Arthur & Torricelli, Costanza, 2019. "Household preferences for socially responsible investments," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 107-120.
    6. Judd B. Kessler & Katherine L. Milkman & C. Yiwei Zhang, 2019. "Getting the Rich and Powerful to Give," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(9), pages 4049-4062, September.
    7. Maria Cristina Rossi & Dario Sansone & Costanza Torricelli & Arthur van Soest, 2018. "Household Preferences for Socially Responsible Investments," Centro Studi di Banca e Finanza (CEFIN) (Center for Studies in Banking and Finance) 18021, Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Dipartimento di Economia "Marco Biagi".

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods

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