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Recognizing donors by revealing their identities is important for increasing charitable giving. We conducted a field experiment to examine how different recognition methods impact giving, and found that all forms of recognition that we examined had a positive impact on increasing donations, whereby recognizing only highest donors (positive recognition) and recognizing only lowest donors (negative recognition) had the most pronounced effect. We argue that selective recognition (both positive and negative) creates tournament-like incentives. Recognizing the highest donors activates the desire to seek a positive prize of prestige, thus increasing the proportion of donors who contribute large amounts. Recognizing the lowest donors activates the desire to avoid a negative prize of shame, thus decreasing the proportion of donors who do not contribute or contribute very little. Therefore, selective recognition is an effective tool that can be used in the field by charities to increase donations.


Working Paper 15-26

This working paper was later published as:

Samek, A. and Sheremeta, R. (2017). Selective recognition: How to recognize donors to increase charitable giving. Economic Inquiry, 55, 1489-1496. doi: 10.1111/ecin.12448



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