The Effects Of Seed Money And Refunds On Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence From A University Capital Campaign

List, John A.; Lucking-Reiley, David, (2002). The Effects Of Seed Money And Refunds On Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence From A University Capital Campaign. Journal Of Political Economy, 110, 1, 215–233.

Keywords: Gift Exchange, Seed Money, alumni donations, field experiments, framing, philanthropy, price of giving, seed money, social giving


Type of evidence: Field-exp-charity

Related tools: Refund donations if target not reached, Seed donations

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Paper summary



We design a field experiment to test two theories of fund-raising for threshold public goods: Andreoni predicts that publicly announced “seed money” will increase charitable donations, whereas Bagnoli and Lipman predict a similar increase for a refund policy. Experimentally manipulating a solicitation of 3,000 households for a university capital campaign produced data confirming both predictions. Increasing seed money from 10 percent to 67 percent of the campaign goal produced a nearly sixfold increase in contributions, with significant effects on both participation rates and average gift size. Imposing a refund increased contributions by a more modest 20 percent, with significant effects on average gift size.


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This paper has been added by David Reinstein

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