SPI Working Paper Series

WP #: 138

Date: Apr 2015


SPI Funded Paper

Do Beliefs About Peers Matter for Donation Matching? Experiments in the Field and Laboratory

    Laura K. Gee, Michael J. Schreck

    Tufts University
    Analysis Group

Donation matching is a popular fundraising mechanism, but recent charitable giving field ex- periments find that matching does not always improve donation outcomes. One reason for these inconsistent results may be that individuals believe that matching funds will be exhausted by other donors, so their donation is not pivotal to securing the match. This explanation of individuals’ beliefs about peers’ generosity has received little attention, yet we find evidence that these beliefs matter using both a field and lab experiment. Our treatments form small groups of potential donors and offer a flat donation matching amount if a threshold number of donations from the group is received. In both the field and lab, we find that this innovative structuring of donation matching money can lead to substantially higher donor participation than the control. In the lab we find that a higher probability of donation is associated with higher elicited beliefs about being pivotal to securing matching funds. These results suggest that beliefs about peers matter for the effectiveness of donation matching.