Greedy or Grateful? Asking for More When Thanking Donors

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 2183R

47 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2021

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: September 24, 2021

Abstract

Charities routinely send “thank you letters” and small gifts to express gratitude to donors but seek to defray these costs by making additional asks for donations and/or engagement. But the “ask for more” can backfire if potential donors perceive persuasive intent in the expression of gratitude, inducing reactance. We hypothesize that such reactance and its impact on giving will vary by donor loyalty. Loyal donors are more likely to experience reactance to additional asks, muting the feeling of reciprocity aroused by the expression of gratitude to suppress giving. In contrast, non-loyal donors are less likely to experience reactance, and therefore more likely to channel the feeling of reciprocity toward giving. We test our hypothesis using a large-scale natural field experiment involving nearly 180,000 past donors to a leading charity in India. We find evidence in support of our hypothesis. We therefore recommend that additional asks only be made to nonloyal donors. Such differentially targeted ask messages based on past donation behavior, using data readily available to charities, can increase overall donation amounts by 12.8-17.5%. Our findings highlight that purely cross-sectional experiments that do not account for past donor/customer history may offer incomplete insight and lead to erroneous managerial implications.

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

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 (September 24, 2021). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 2183R, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3930032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3930032

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 )

Box 208281
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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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