Do Sympathy Biases Induce Charitable Giving? The Effects of Advertising Content

53 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2014 Last revised: 30 Jan 2016

See all articles by K. Sudhir

K. Sudhir

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

Subroto Roy

University of New Haven - Department of Marketing and Quantitative Analysis

Mathew Cherian

HelpAge India

Date Written: January 29, 2016

Abstract

We randomize advertising content motivated by the psychology literature on sympathy generation and framing effects in mailings to about 185,000 prospective new donors in India. We find significant impact on the number of donors and amounts donated consistent with sympathy biases such as the “identifiable victim,” “in-group” and “reference dependence.” A monthly reframing of the ask amount increases donors and amount donated relative to daily reframing. A second field experiment targeted to past donors, finds that the effect of sympathy bias on giving is smaller in percentage terms but statistically and economically highly significant in terms of the magnitude of additional dollars raised. Methodologically, the paper complements the work of behavioral scholars by adopting an empirical researchers’ lens of measuring relative effect sizes and economic relevance of multiple behavioral theoretical constructs in the sympathy bias and charity domain within one field setting. Beyond the benefit of conceptual replications, the effect sizes provide guidance to managers on which behavioral theories are most managerially and economically relevant when developing advertising content.

Keywords: Charitable giving, Sympathy biases, Identified victim effect, Non-profit marketing, Advertising, Behavioral economics, Conceptual replications

JEL Classification: L31, M37, M31, C99

Suggested Citation

Sudhir, K. and Roy, Subroto and Cherian, Mathew, Do Sympathy Biases Induce Charitable Giving? The Effects of Advertising Content (January 29, 2016). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1940. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2409106 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2409106

K. Sudhir (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States
203-432-3289 (Phone)
203-432-3003 (Fax)

Yale University-Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Yale University - Cowles Foundation ( email )

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Subroto Roy

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

West Haven, CT
United States

Mathew Cherian

HelpAge India ( email )

21, Seetharam Nagar
1st Cross Street
Cuddalore, Tamilnadu 607001
India

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