SPI Working Paper Series

WP #: 120

Date: Dec 2014


SPI Funded Paper

Increasing Charitable Giving in the Developed World

    Cynthia R. Jasper, Anya Savikhin Samek

    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    University of Wisconsin-Madison

Charitable giving has continued to increase in economic importance in the developed world. For instance, in the United States, more than $335 billion – over 2% of U.S. GDP, was contributed to philanthropic organizations in 2013 alone. According to the World Giving Index, around 50%-60% of households in the developed world give to charity. The supply of charitable dollars is met by a high demand - billions are spent on fundraising activities annually. Field experiments have allowed us to learn about the different motivations of potential donors, as well as to identify the best strategies that non-profits can use to attract funds. In this article, we discuss the work in this field to date. Then, we suggest using selection into ‘the ask’ as a promising new direction for future research. We discuss strategies that charities can use in practice to take advantage of new research findings. Finally, we complement our discussion by presenting new evidence on giving behavior in a door-to-door field experiment we conducted with over 1,000 households in a mid-sized city in the United States.

SPI Quick Look:
This paper provides a comprehensive review of the different field experiments that have provided insights into social preferences, and presents results from a replication of the experiment of DellaVigna et al. (2012), confirming the importance of social pressure in motivating people to give.