An Experimental Test of Fundraising Appeals Targeting Donor and Recipient Benefits

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We partnered with Alaska’s Pick.Click.Give. programme to implement a statewide natural field experiment with 540,000 Alaskans designed to examine two of the main motivations for charitable giving: concerns for the benefits to self (impure altruism or ‘warm glow’) or concerns for the benefits to others (pure altruism). Our empirical results highlight the relative importance of appeals to self: individuals who received such an appeal were 6.6% more likely to give and gave 23% more than counterparts in the control group. Yet, a message that instead appealed to recipient benefits (motivated by altruism) had no statistically significant effect on average donations relative to the control group. We also find evidence of long-run effects of warm-glow appeals in the subsequent year. Our results have import for theoreticians and empiricists interested in modelling charitable giving as well as practitioners and policymakers.


This article was originally published in Nature Human Behavior in 2021.

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