Publication Date: March 2014
Update Date: January 2016
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.
Charitable giving, Sympathy biases, Identiﬁed victim eﬀect, Non-proﬁt marketing, Advertising, Behavioral economics, Conceptual replications
JEL Classification Codes: L31, M37, M31, C99