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Do beliefs about peers matter for donation matching? Experiments in the field and laboratory

Laura K. Gee and Michael J. Schreck

Games and Economic Behavior, 2018, vol. 107, issue C, 282-297

Abstract: A popular fundraising tool is donation matching, where every dollar is matched by a third party. But field experiments find that matching doesn't always increase donations. Individuals may believe that peers will exhaust the matching funds, so their donation isn't pivotal. We develop a theory of how beliefs about peers' donations affect one's likelihood of donation. We test our theory using novel “threshold match” treatments in field and laboratory experiments. One “threshold match” treatment more than doubles the donation rate relative to no match. To understand the mechanism behind this increase, we use a lab study to show that beliefs about peers' donations matter. Our theoretical, lab, and field results combined suggest people are more likely to donate when they believe they are more pivotal to securing matching money. Beliefs about others matter, and they should be taken into account when trying to increase donations.

Keywords: Charitable giving; Field experiment; Beliefs; Public goods (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C93 D64 H41 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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