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Subsidizing Charitable Contributions: A Field Test Comparing Matching and Rebate Subsidies

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  • Catherine Eckel

    () (Department of Economics, Virginia Tech)

Abstract

We report the results of a field experiment conducted in conjunction with a mailed fundraising campaign of a nonprofit organization. The experiment is designed to compare the response of donors to subsidies in the form of matching amounts or rebated amounts. Matching subsidies are used by many corporations as an employee benefit; the US federal tax system encourages giving using a rebate subsidy by making donations tax deductible. The design includes a control group and two levels of subsidy of each type. Our main result is that matching subsidies result in larger total donations to charities than rebate subsidies, a result that is qualitatively similar to the lab findings. The estimated price elasticities for the matching subsidy are very similar to (and insignificantly different from) the lab experiments, while rebate subsidies lead to lower contributions in the field than in the lab. Since rebates in the field involve substantial lags and additional complications as compared with the "instant rebates" of the lab, this latter difference is not unexpected. The matching results are an important step in validating lab estimates of responsiveness to subsidies of charitable giving.
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Suggested Citation

  • Catherine Eckel, 2005. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions: A Field Test Comparing Matching and Rebate Subsidies," Working Papers 2098, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:wpaper:2098
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2006. "Field experiments in charitable contribution: The impact of social influence on the voluntary provision of public goods," Natural Field Experiments 00323, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Levitt, Steven D. & List, John A., 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Meier Stephan, 2005. "Does Framing Matter for Conditional Cooperation? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-21, December.
    4. John List, 2008. "Introduction to field experiments in economics with applications to the economics of charity," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 203-212, September.
    5. Michel Marechal & Christian Thoni, 2007. "Do managers reciprocate? Field experimental evidence from a competitive market," Natural Field Experiments 00310, The Field Experiments Website.
    6. Fong, Christina M. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2011. "Do fairness and race matter in generosity? Evidence from a nationally representative charity experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5-6), pages 372-394, June.
    7. Fong, Christina M. & Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2009. "Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment," Working Paper Series rwp09-014, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    8. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Do Donors Care about Subsidy Type? An Experimental Study," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-10, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    9. Huck, Steffen & Rasul, Imran, 2011. "Matched fundraising: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5-6), pages 351-362, June.
    10. Stephan Meier, 2005. "Does framing matter for conditional cooperation? Evidence from a natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00309, The Field Experiments Website.
    11. Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2008. "The impact of downward social information on contribution decisions," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 221-233, September.
    12. Jen Shang & Rachel Croson, 2009. "A Field Experiment in Charitable Contribution: The Impact of Social Information on the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(540), pages 1422-1439, October.
    13. Douglas D. Davis, 2006. "Rebate subsidies, matching subsidies and isolation effects," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 1, pages 13-22, July.
    14. Christina Fong & Erzo Luttmer, 2007. "What determines giving to hurricane katrina victims? Experimental evidence on income, race, and fairness," Artefactual Field Experiments 00046, The Field Experiments Website.
    15. Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Details Matter: The Impact of Presentation and Information on the Take-Up of Financial Incentives for Retirement Saving," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 204-228, February.
    16. 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.
    17. Steffen Huck & Imran Rasul & Andrew Shephard, 2015. "Comparing Charitable Fundraising Schemes: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment and a Structural Model," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 326-369, May.
    18. List John A., 2007. "Field Experiments: A Bridge between Lab and Naturally Occurring Data," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-47, April.
    19. Kling, Jeffrey R., 2007. "Methodological Frontiers of Public Finance Field Experiments," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(1), pages 109-127, March.
    20. Wagener, Andreas & Kolmar, Martin, 2011. "Group Identities in Conflicts," Annual Conference 2011 (Frankfurt, Main): The Order of the World Economy - Lessons from the Crisis 48694, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    21. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions in the Field: Evidence from a Non-Secular Charity," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-44, Monash University, Department of Economics.

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    Keywords

    Charitable Fundraising;

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