Telling potential donors know how much others have given can increase contributions, a new study says.
The study, “Field Experiments in Charitable Contributions: The Impact of Social Influence on the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods,” was conducted by researchers from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and from Indiana University.
In conducting the research as part of a public-radio fund drive, researchers sought to determine if providing information on previous donors’ contributions would positively influence people calling to make gifts.
The study found that providing callers with “relevant and appropriate” information about how much a previous donor has given can significantly increase the amount of donations.
In the case of the public-radio station, when callers were told that a previous caller had donated $300, a figure representing the top 10 percent of the distribution of gifts, donations rose by an average of 12 percent over the control group.
In situations where there is no “correct” amount to donate, donors appear to find it useful to have a benchmark to guide their giving, the study says.
The study also found that providing such social information leads to increased giving in the next year.