Matching Donations: Subsidizing Charitable Giving in a Field Experiment

Zurich IEER Working Paper No. 181

24 Pages Posted: 26 May 2004

See all articles by Stephan Meier

Stephan Meier

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Columbia Business School - Management

Bruno S. Frey

CREMA; University of Basel

Date Written: February 2004


This paper tests the effect of a matching mechanism on donations in a controlled field experiment. We match the donations of students at the University of Zurich who, each semester, have to decide whether they wish to contribute to two Social Funds. Our results support the hypothesis that a matching mechanism increases contributions to a public good. However, the effect depends on the extent to which the contributions are matched. Whereas a 25 percent increase of a donation does not increase the willingness to contribute, a 50 percent increase does have an effect. In addition, people need to be socially inclined to react to the matching mechanism. The field experiment provides some evidence suggesting that the matching mechanism crowds-out the intrinsic motivation of giving.

Keywords: Public Goods, Field Experiment, Matching Mechanism, Donations

JEL Classification: C93, D64, H00

Suggested Citation

Meier, Stephan and Frey, Bruno S., Matching Donations: Subsidizing Charitable Giving in a Field Experiment (February 2004). Zurich IEER Working Paper No. 181, Available at SSRN: or

Stephan Meier (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

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Boston, MA 02210
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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
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Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

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New York, NY 10027
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Bruno S. Frey

CREMA ( email )

Südstrasse 11
Zurich, CH 8008
+41 44 380 00 78 (Phone)

University of Basel ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
Basel, 4002

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