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The Impact of a Surprise Donation Ask

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  • Christine L. Exley

    (Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit)

  • Ragan Petrie

    (Department of Economics, Texas A&M University)

Abstract

Individuals frequently exploit "flexibility" built into decision environments to give less. They use subjectivity to justify options benefiting themselves over others, they avoid information that may encourage them to give, and they avoid the ask itself. In this paper, we examine whether a reluctance to give may arise even when such explicit flexibility is absent. We investigate whether merely alerting individuals to an upcoming prosocial ask ? that is neither avoided nor contains subjective components ? results in reduced prosocial behavior. That is, we investigate whether individuals use time to quickly find or develop their own flexibility and excuses not to give. Results from a field study and complementary online study provide a clear answer: yes.

Suggested Citation

  • Christine L. Exley & Ragan Petrie, 2016. "The Impact of a Surprise Donation Ask," Harvard Business School Working Papers 16-101, Harvard Business School, revised Dec 2017.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:16-101
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephanie A. Heger & Robert Slonim & Ellen Garbarino & Carmen Wang & Daniel Waller, 2020. "Redesigning the Market for Volunteers: A Donor Registry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(8), pages 3528-3541, August.
    2. Adena, Maja & Huck, Steffen, 2016. "Online fundraising, self-deception, and the long-term impact of ask avoidance," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2016-306, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    3. Maja Adena & Steffen Huck, 2020. "Online Fundraising, Self-Image, and the Long-Term Impact of Ask Avoidance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(2), pages 722-743, February.
    4. Björn Bartling & Yagiz Özdemir, 2017. "The limits to moral erosion in markets: social norms and the replacement excuse," ECON - Working Papers 263, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. James Andreoni & Marta Serra-Garcia, 2019. "The Pledging Puzzle: How Can Revocable Promises Increase Charitable Giving," CESifo Working Paper Series 7965, CESifo.
    6. Sasaki, Shusaku, 2019. "Majority size and conformity behavior in charitable giving: Field evidence from a donation-based crowdfunding platform in Japan," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 36-51.
    7. Christine L. Exley, 2020. "Using Charity Performance Metrics as an Excuse Not to Give," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(2), pages 553-563, February.
    8. David Klinowski, 2021. "Reluctant donors and their reactions to social information," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 24(2), pages 515-535, June.
    9. Oliver P. Hauser & Francesca Gino & Michael I. Norton, 2018. "Budging beliefs, nudging behaviour," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 17(1), pages 15-26, November.
    10. Christine L. Exley & Judd B. Kessler, 2017. "Motivated Errors," Harvard Business School Working Papers 18-017, Harvard Business School, revised May 2018.
    11. 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.
    12. Linda Thunström, 2020. "Thoughts and prayers – Do they crowd out charity donations?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 60(1), pages 1-28, February.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    charitable giving; prosocial behavior; self-serving biases; excuses;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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