Greedy or Grateful? Asking for More when Thanking Donors

53 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2019

See all articles by K. Sudhir

K. Sudhir

Yale School of Management; Yale University-Department of Economics; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Hortense Fong

Yale University, School of Management, Students

Subroto Roy

University of New Haven - Department of Marketing and Quantitative Analysis

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 14, 2019

Abstract

Charities often send annual “thank you letters” to express gratitude to donors, but seek to defray these costs by inviting additional donations or engagement. However, the additional asks may backfire if potential donors see the thank you message as “insincere” or “manipulative.” We test this trade-off by conducting a field experiment in cooperation with a leading charity in India. We find that an explicit ask for additional donations or even a request to follow the organization on Facebook reduces giving. However, these effects are not only heterogeneous, but asymmetric by past giving behavior. Recent, frequent, and higher monetary value donors react negatively to additional asks by reducing giving, but lapsed, infrequent, and lower monetary value donors react positively by giving more. Our results highlight that findings based on purely cross-sectional experiments may offer incomplete insight. We estimate that differentially targeted ask messages based on past donation behavior, data readily available to charities, can increase donations overall by 6-11%.

Keywords: Gratitude, Field experiments, Reactance, Fundraising, Donor relationship management, Nonprofits, Altruism

JEL Classification: L31, M31, M37, C93

Suggested Citation

Sudhir, K. and Fong, Hortense and Roy, Subroto, Greedy or Grateful? Asking for More when Thanking Donors (June 14, 2019). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 2183, June 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3405396 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3405396

K. Sudhir (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

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Yale University-Department of Economics ( email )

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Yale University - Cowles Foundation ( email )

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Hortense Fong

Yale University, School of Management, Students ( email )

New Haven, CT
United States

Subroto Roy

University of New Haven - Department of Marketing and Quantitative Analysis ( email )

West Haven, CT
United States

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