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Small is beautiful: Experimental evidence of donors' preferences for charities


  • Borgloh, Sarah
  • Dannenberg, Astrid
  • Aretz, Bodo


This paper studies the effect of information about a charity's size on individuals' donations to that charity. We conducted a framed field experiment with a non-student sample, in which subjects had the opportunity to donate for various charitable purposes. The results show that if subjects are to choose between large organizations with high annual revenues and small organizations with low revenues, they prefer the small organizations. We also provide insights why donors prefer the small organizations and discriminate between different theoretical approaches.

Suggested Citation

  • Borgloh, Sarah & Dannenberg, Astrid & Aretz, Bodo, 2010. "Small is beautiful: Experimental evidence of donors' preferences for charities," ZEW Discussion Papers 10-052, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:10052

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andreoni, James & Payne, A. Abigail, 2011. "Is crowding out due entirely to fundraising? Evidence from a panel of charities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 334-343.
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    3. Konow, James, 2010. "Mixed feelings: Theories of and evidence on giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 279-297, April.
    4. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 157-180, Spring.
    5. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
    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 1447-1458, December.
    7. Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2008. "The impact of downward social information on contribution decisions," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 221-233, September.
    8. 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 464-477, June.
    9. Jen Shang & Rachel Croson, 2009. "A Field Experiment in Charitable Contribution: The Impact of Social Information on the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(540), pages 1422-1439, October.
    10. Soetevent, Adriaan R., 2005. "Anonymity in giving in a natural context--a field experiment in 30 churches," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2301-2323, December.
    11. Martin, Richard & Randal, John, 2008. "How is donation behaviour affected by the donations of others?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 228-238, July.
    12. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
    13. Duncan, Brian, 2004. "A theory of impact philanthropy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2159-2180, August.
    14. 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.
    15. Glazer, Amihai & Konrad, Kai A, 1996. "A Signaling Explanation for Charity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 1019-1028, September.
    16. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jade Wong & Andreas Ortman, 2013. "Do Donors Care About the Price of Giving? A Review of the Evidence, with Some Theory to Organize It," Discussion Papers 2013-22, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    2. Nadine Chlaß & Lata Gangadharan & Kristy Jones, 2015. "Charitable giving and intermediation," Jena Economic Research Papers 2015-021, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    3. Laura Metzger & Isabel Günther, 2015. "Making an impact? The relevance of information on aid effectiveness for charitable giving. A laboratory experiment," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 182, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    4. Müller, Stephan & Rau, Holger A., 2015. "Risk-tolerant women donate more than men: Experimental evidence of dictator games," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 264, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    5. Metzger, Laura, 2015. "Making an impact? The importance of aid effectiveness for charitable giving. A laboratory experiment," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112835, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Ivo Bischoff & Thomas Krauskopf, 2013. "Motives of pro-social behavior in individual versus collective decisions – a comparative experimental study," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201319, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

    More about this item


    charitable contributions; information; framed field experiment; fundraising;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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