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Comparing charitable fundraising schemes: Evidence from a field experiment and a structural model

Author

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  • Huck, Steffen
  • Rasul, Imran
  • Shephard, Andrew

Abstract

We present evidence from a natural field experiment designed to shed light on the efficacy of alternative fundraising schemes. In conjunction with the Bavarian State Opera House, we mailed 25,000 regular opera attendees a letter describing a charitable fundraising project organized by the opera house. Recipients were randomly assigned to six treatments designed to explore behavioral responses to fundraising schemes varying in two dimensions: (i) the presence of a lead donor; (ii) whether and how individual donations would be matched using the lead donation. We provide reduced form evidence from the field experiment on the causal impact of each fundraising scheme on the extensive and intensive margins of giving. We then develop and estimate a structural model of giving behavior that simultaneously estimates individual responses on both margins. We utilize the structural model to predict giving behavior in counterfactual fundraising schemes. The evidence suggests the optimal fundraising scheme is one in which the charitable organization merely announces the existence of a significant and anonymous lead donor, and does not use the lead donation to match donations in any way, be it through linear matching, non-linear matching, threshold matching, or some combination of the three. We conclude by discussing evidence from a follow-up field experiment designed to probe further the question why lead donors are effective.
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Suggested Citation

  • Huck, Steffen & Rasul, Imran & Shephard, Andrew, 2012. "Comparing charitable fundraising schemes: Evidence from a field experiment and a structural model," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2012-303, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbeoc:spii2012303
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
    2. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December.
    3. Daniel Rondeau & John List, 2008. "Matching and challenge gifts to charity: evidence from laboratory and natural field experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 253-267, September.
    4. 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.
    5. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2002. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 215-233, February.
    6. Randolph, William C, 1995. "Dynamic Income, Progressive Taxes, and the Timing of Charitable Contributions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 709-738, August.
    7. Briers, Barbara & Pandelaere, Mario & Warlop, Luk, 2007. "Adding exchange to charity: A reference price explanation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 15-30, January.
    8. Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "An Economist Sells Bagels: A Case Study in Profit Maximization," NBER Working Papers 12152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Brigitte C. Madrian, 2012. "Matching Contributions and Savings Outcomes: A Behavioral Economics Perspective," NBER Working Papers 18220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Gerald E. Auten & Holger Sieg & Charles T. Clotfelter, 2002. "Charitable Giving, Income, and Taxes: An Analysis of Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 371-382, March.
    11. Romano, Richard & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2001. "Why charities announce donations: a positive perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 423-447, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Meer, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S., 2011. "The ABCs of charitable solicitation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5-6), pages 363-371, June.
    2. de Oliveira, Angela C.M. & Croson, Rachel T.A. & Eckel, Catherine, 2011. "The giving type: Identifying donors," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 428-435.
    3. 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.
    4. Jonathan Meer & Harvey S. Rosen, 2009. "Family Bonding with Universities," NBER Working Papers 15493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jonathan Meer, 2009. "Brother Can You Spare a Dime? Peer Effects in Charitable Solicitation," Discussion Papers 08-035, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    charitable giving; field experiment; structural estimation;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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