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Home Publications Comparing Charitable Fundraising Schemes: Evidence from a Field Experiment and a Structural Model

Comparing Charitable Fundraising Schemes: Evidence from a Field Experiment and a Structural Model

Steffen Huck, Imran Rasul and Andrew Shephard
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We present evidence from a natural field experiment designed to shed light on the efficacy of alternative fundraising schemes. In conjunction with the Bavarian State Opera House, we mailed 25,000 regular opera attendees a letter describing a charitable fundraising project organized by the opera house. Recipients were randomly assigned to six treatments designed to explore behavioral responses to fundraising schemes varying in two dimensions: (i) the presence of a lead donor; (ii) whether and how individual donations would be matched using the lead donation. We provide reduced form evidence from the field experiment on the causal impact of each fundraising scheme on the extensive and intensive margins of giving. We then develop and estimate a structural model of giving behavior that simultaneously estimates individual responses on both margins. We utilize the structural model to predict giving behavior in counterfactual fundraising schemes. The evidence suggests the optimal fundrais- ing scheme is one in which the charitable organization merely announces the existence of a significant and anonymous lead donor, and does not use the lead donation to match dona- tions in any way, be it through linear matching, non-linear matching, threshold matching, or some combination of the three. We conclude by discussing evidence from a follow-up field experiment designed to probe further the question why lead donors are effective. 

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Journal article | American Economic Journal: Economic Policy
The authors present evidence from a natural field experiment and structural model to shed light on the efficacy of alternative fundraising schemes.