SPI Funded Paper
Recognizing Contributors: An Experiment on Public Goods
Anya C. (Savikhin) Samak, Roman M. Sheremeta
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Case Western Reserve University
We experimentally investigate the impact of recognizing contributors on public good contributions. We vary recognizing all, highest or lowest contributors. Consistent with previous studies, recognizing all contributors significantly increases contributions relative to the baseline. Recognizing only the highest contributors does not increase contributions compared to not recognizing contributors, while recognizing only the lowest contributors is as effective as recognizing all contributors. These findings support our conjecture that aversion from shame is a more powerful motivator for giving than anticipation of prestige.
SPI Quick Look:
The desire for social approval is one of the reasons why individuals will act more generously in public if their generosity is viewable by others. Which form of "advertising" works better and why? The paper compares three mechanisms of advertising donors' contributions: 1) recognizing all donors; 2) recognizing only highest contributors; 3) recognizing only lowest contributors. Results show that recognizing only the lowest contributors increases giving as much as recognizing all contributors, while recognizing only the highest contributors does not increase contributions compared to not recognizing contributors. Shame from not being generous enough thus may be a more powerful motivator than the anticipation of prestige. The results suggest that recognizing all, rather than only top, contributors may be most effective way to increase giving and participation.