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

Author

Listed:
  • Gee, Laura Katherine

    () (Tufts University)

  • Schreck, Michael J.

    () (Analysis Group)

Abstract

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, so their donation is not pivotal to obtaining 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

  • Gee, Laura Katherine & Schreck, Michael J., 2017. "Do Beliefs about Peers Matter for Donation Matching? Experiments in the Field and Laboratory," IZA Discussion Papers 10956, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10956
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    charitable giving; field experiment; beliefs; public goods;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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