Do Beliefs About Peers Matter for Donation Matching? Experiments in the Field and Laboratory

41 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2015 Last revised: 13 Sep 2016

See all articles by Laura Gee

Laura Gee

Tufts University; IZA

Michael Schreck

Analysis Group, Inc.

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 31, 2016


Charitable giving has been about 2% of US GDP since the turn of the century. A popular fundraising tool is donation matching where every dollar is matched by a third party. But field experiments find that matching does not always increase donations. This may occur because individuals believe that peer donors will exhaust the matching funds. We develop a theory of how beliefs about peers’ donations affect one’s own likelihood of donation. We test our theory using novel “threshold match” treatments in field and laboratory experiments. These treatments form small groups and offer a flat matching bonus if a threshold number of donations is received. One “threshold match” treatment more than doubles the donation rate in the field relative to no match. To better understand the mechanism behind this huge increase, we use a lab study to replicate the field results and further show that beliefs about peers’ donations matter. Our theoretical, lab, and field results combined suggest people are more likely to donate when they believe they are more pivotal to securing matching money. Beliefs about others matter, and they should be taken into account when trying to increase donations.

Keywords: Charitable Giving, Field Experiment, Matching

JEL Classification: C93, D64, H41

Suggested Citation

Gee, Laura and Schreck, Michael, Do Beliefs About Peers Matter for Donation Matching? Experiments in the Field and Laboratory (August 31, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Laura Gee (Contact Author)

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States


P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Michael Schreck

Analysis Group, Inc. ( email )

111 Huntington Avenue
10th floor
Boston, MA 02199
United States

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