Avoiding The Ask: A Field Experiment on Altruism, Empathy, and Charitable Giving
NBER Working Paper No. 17648
If people get joy from giving, then why might they avoid fundraisers? We explore this in a randomized natural field experiment during the Salvation Army's annual campaign. The familiar bell-ringers were placed at one or both of two main entrances to a supermarket, making the ask for a charitable donation either easy or difficult to avoid. Additionally, solicitors either simply rang the bell, or asked "please give" to passersby. Verbally asking dramatically increases the number of givers and the amount of giving, as does having solicitors at both main entrances. However, we also found dramatic avoidance of verbal solicitation, between 26.2% and 32.6%, but negligible avoidance of non-verbal solicitation. Asking has a powerful effect on both giving when asked, and on avoidance. We argue that this pattern likely illustrates givers' sophisticated awareness of the empathy-altruism link, rather than pernicious social costs of fundraising.
This paper was revised on November 7, 2016
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17648
forthcoming in the Journal of Political Economy
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