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Promises Undone: How Committed Pledges Impact Donations to Charity

Author

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  • Toke R. Fosgaard

    () (University of Copenhagen)

  • Adriaan (A.R.) Soetevent

    () (University of Groningen; Tinbergen Institute, The Netherlands)

Abstract

The declining use of cash in society urges charities to experiment with digital payment instruments in their off-line fund raising activities. Cash and card payments differ in that the latter do not require individuals to donate at the time of the ask, disconnecting the decision to give from the act of giving. Evidence shows that people who say they will give mostly do not follow through. Our theory shows that having people to formally state the intended amount may alleviate this problem. We report on a field experiment the results of which show that donors who have pledged an amount are indeed more likely to follow through. The firmer the pledge, the more closely the amount donated matches the amount that was pledged. 45% of all participants however refuses to pledge. This proves that donors value flexibility over commitment in intertemporal charitable giving.

Suggested Citation

  • Toke R. Fosgaard & Adriaan (A.R.) Soetevent, 2018. "Promises Undone: How Committed Pledges Impact Donations to Charity," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 18-044/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20180044
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chowdhury, Subhasish M. & Jeon, Joo Young, 2014. "Impure altruism or inequality aversion?: An experimental investigation based on income effects," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 143-150.
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    3. Sergei Koulayev & Marc Rysman & Scott Schuh & Joanna Stavins, 2016. "Explaining adoption and use of payment instruments by US consumers," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 47(2), pages 293-325, May.
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    5. 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.
    6. Knowles, Stephen & Serv√°tka, MaroŇ° & Sullivan, Trudy, 2016. "Deadlines, Procrastination, and Inattention in Charitable Tasks: A Field Experiment," MPRA Paper 69621, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Cohen, Michael & Rysman, Marc, 2012. "Payment Choice with Consumer Panel Data," Working Paper series 148348, University of Connecticut, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    8. Adriaan R. Soetevent, 2011. "Payment Choice, Image Motivation and Contributions to Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 180-205, February.
    9. Damgaard, Mette Trier & Gravert, Christina, 2017. "Now or never! The effect of deadlines on charitable giving: Evidence from two natural field experiments," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 78-87.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Andreoni & Marta Serra-Garcia, 2019. "The Pledging Puzzle: How Can Revocable Promises Increase Charitable Giving," CESifo Working Paper Series 7965, CESifo.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Charitable fundraising; Field experiment; Image motivation;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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