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

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

We present evidence from a natural field experiment and structural model designed to shed light on the efficacy of alternative fundraising schemes. In conjunction with the Bavarian State Opera, we mailed 25,000 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) how individual donations would be matched using the lead donation, using either linear, non-linear and fixed-gift matching schemes. We develop and estimate a structural model that simultaneously estimates individual responses on the extensive and intensive margins of giving, and then utilize the structural model to predict giving behavior in counterfactual fundraising schemes. We find that charitable donations are maximized by simply announcing the lead donation rather than using it to match the donations of others in some way. If lead donors insist their gifts must be matched in some way, we find the fundraiser is best off announcing the existence of a lead donor and using a nonconvex scheme to match the lead donation with individual donations. We conclude by providing evidence from a follow-up natural field experiment designed to probe further the question why lead donors are so effective in inducing others to give.

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Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change with number SP II 2012-303r.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbeoc:spii2012303r
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  1. 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.
  2. Gabrielle Fack & Camille Landais, 2010. "Are Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving Efficient? Evidence from France," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 117-41, May.
  3. Dean Karlan & John List, 2006. "Does price matter in charitable giving? Evidence from a large-scale natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00279, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Daniel Rondeau & John A. List, 2008. "Matching and Challenge Gifts to Charity:Evidence from Laboratory and Natural Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 13728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Catherine Eckel & Philip Grossman, 2005. "Subsidizing charitable contributions: A field test comparing matching and rebate subsidies," Framed Field Experiments 00145, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Huck, Steffen & Rasul, Imran, 2010. "Matched Fundraising: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 5267, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. David Lucking-Reiley & John List, 2002. "The effects of seed money and refunds on charitable giving: Experimental evidence from a university capital campaign," Natural Field Experiments 00301, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. 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.
  9. Glazer, Amihai & Konrad, Kai A, 1996. "A Signaling Explanation for Charity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 1019-28, September.
  10. Brigitte C. Madrian, 2012. "Matching Contributions and Savings Outcomes: A Behavioral Economics Perspective," NBER Working Papers 18220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. de Oliveira, Angela C.M. & Croson, Rachel T.A. & Eckel, Catherine, 2011. "The giving type: Identifying donors," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5-6), pages 428-435, June.
  12. Dean Karlan and John A. List, 2012. "How Can Bill and Melinda Gates Increase Other People’s Donations to Fund Public Goods? - Working Paper 292," Working Papers 292, Center for Global Development.
  13. Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "An Economist Sells Bagels: A Case Study in Profit Maximization," NBER Working Papers 12152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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 709-38, August.
  15. Karlan, Dean S. & List, John, 2012. "How Can Bill and Melinda Gates Increase Other People's Donations to Fund Public Goods?," CEPR Discussion Papers 8922, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
  17. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
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