SPI Working Paper Series

WP #: 139

Date: Apr 2015


Conformity in Charitable Giving: Evidence from Empirical Analysis of Japanese Online Donations

    Shusaku Sasaki

    Osaka University

We investigate the impacts of multiple earlier donations on the amounts that subsequent donors contributed to JapanGiving, an online fundraising platform, during 2011. The platform’s webpage displays amounts of the preceding five donations in chronological order. In our model, using data for 9,984 donations, we construct variables to explain information a donor sees on the webpage. The main variables are the modal amount among the preceding five donations and their appearance along the sequence. We find that when more of the preceding five donations are identical, a new donor will more likely match the modal amount. However, this is not observed when the last two sequential donations are identical. Only the most recent three or more modal donations influence a new donor to match the modal amount. Our findings connect economic studies of charity and social psychology studies of conformity.

SPI Quick Look:
This study empirically investigates the effects of informing potential donors about the amounts multiple donors have already contributed to a fundraising website. Our analysis employs a novel dataset and model. First, we use data from 9,984 donations presented on the real website of JapanGiving. The distinctive feature of JapanGiving is that its fundraising page displays amounts of each previous individual donation in chronological order. Potential donors can see the most recent four or five individual donations and combinations of previous donations that arise as a result of accessing the page at different times. Second, our empirical model uses variables to explain representative combinations of previous donations. Using the data and the model, we find which combination most increases the likelihood that a new donor will match the modal norm established by previous donations. Several findings emerge from our empirical analysis. The main finding is that when more among the five previous donors contribute a same amount, it is more likely that a new donor will match their modal amount. This result indicates that donor conformity increases in the above circumstance. However, we also find that this phenomenon does not appear when the two most immediate previous donors give the same amount. Only three or more successive modal donations significantly affect the likelihood that a new donor matches the modal amount.