Testing donation menus: on charitable giving for cancer research – evidence from a natural field experiment

Behavioural Public Policy, Cambridge University Press 2019


Behavioral economics research has helped with understanding charitable behavior and has shown that charities can encourage donations by carefully designing their pledges. However, there is still scope to extend current research on who gives, what drives the decision to donate and at what levels, especially when behavioral insights are applied in context. In cooperation with a major Italian charity for cancer research, this study implements a natural direct mail field experiment, with over 150,000 letters sent to donors. By exploring the behavioral responses to different donation anchors, evidence was found that, within the given framework, including donation menus significantly increased the average amount donated without affecting the likelihood of donation. Furthermore, introducing additional explanations of how to make a payment significantly increased overall returns. Lastly, individual heterogeneity (high- and low-frequency donors, as well as senior and junior donors) had a direct effect on donations.



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