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Why Do People Volunteer? An Experimental Analysis of Preferences for Time Donations

  • Alexander L. Brown
  • Jonathan Meer
  • J. Forrest Williams

We conduct a laboratory experiment to test if there are differences in behavior when subjects can donate either time or money to charity. Our subjects perform an effort task to earn money. In one condition they can have their efforts accrue to a charity instead of themselves. In other conditions subjects may only earn money for their private account but then donate it to a charity. We vary the timing and availability of donation opportunities in the monetary donation settings to test the impact of subtle solicitation pressure. We find that subjects with a more opportunities to donate will donate more often and in larger amounts. Further, subjects giving effort to charity give far more than subjects who give monetary donations - between two and five times as much, on average. We posit that this difference is driven by different warm glow from the two donation types.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19066.

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Date of creation: May 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19066
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  1. David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2012. "A Structural Analysis of Disappointment Aversion in a Real Effort Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 469-503, February.
  2. Craig Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2005. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 11611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Null, C., 2011. "Warm glow, information, and inefficient charitable giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5-6), pages 455-465, June.
  4. Huck Steffen & Rasul Imran, 2010. "Transactions Costs in Charitable Giving: Evidence from Two Field Experiments," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-35, April.
  5. Bauer, Thomas K. & Bredtmann, Julia & Schmidt, Christoph M., 2012. "Time vs. Money: The Supply of Voluntary Labor and Charitable Donations across Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 6701, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. 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.
  7. Breman, Anna, 2011. "Give more tomorrow: Two field experiments on altruism and intertemporal choice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1349-1357.
  8. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 990-1008, June.
  9. David Reinstein & Gerhard Riener, 2012. "Decomposing desert and tangibility effects in a charitable giving experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 229-240, March.
  10. Wendy Liu & Jennifer Aaker, 2008. "The Happiness of Giving: The Time-Ask Effect," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 543-557, 05.
  11. Carpenter, Jeffrey & Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2010. "Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, image, and incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 911-920, December.
  12. Liu, Wendy & Aaker, Jennifer L., 2008. "The Happiness of Giving: The Time-Ask Effect," Research Papers 1998, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  13. Christopher J. Ruhm & Carey Borkoski, 2003. "Compensation in the Nonprofit Sector," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(4).
  14. Null, C., 2011. "Warm glow, information, and inefficient charitable giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 455-465.
  15. Naomi E. Feldman, 2010. "Time Is Money: Choosing between Charitable Activities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 103-30, February.
  16. Crumpler, Heidi & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "An experimental test of warm glow giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1011-1021, June.
  17. Brown, Eleanor & Lankford, Hamilton, 1992. "Gifts of money and gifts of time estimating the effects of tax prices and available time," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 321-341, April.
  18. Oxoby, Robert J. & Spraggon, John, 2008. "Mine and yours: Property rights in dictator games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 703-713, March.
  19. Duncan, Brian, 1999. "Modeling charitable contributions of time and money," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 213-242, May.
  20. Linardi, Sera & McConnell, Margaret A., 2011. "No excuses for good behavior: Volunteering and the social environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5-6), pages 445-454, June.
  21. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2010. "Disentangling the sources of pro-socially motivated effort: A field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1086-1092, December.
  22. Preston, Anne E, 1989. "The Nonprofit Worker in a For-Profit World," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 438-63, October.
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