Bigger Matching Gifts Don’t Produce More Donors


The Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 15, 2006


Persuading a wealthy donor to match smaller gifts from other people is one of the most popular techniques in fundraising. But charity officials shouldn’t spend a lot of time encouraging big donors to offer two or three times as much as other donors give, a new study by economists has found — because doing so won’t stimulate any more donations than a dollar-for-dollar match.

The study, by two economics professors, Dean Karlan at Yale University and John A. List of the University of Chicago, was conducted by comparing the returns from direct-mail appeals to 50,083 people who had donated to a liberal advocacy group at least once. The researchers did not disclose the identity of the organization.

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