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Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Working Papers
How low can you go? Charity reporting when donations signal income and generosity
Anat Bracha
Lise Vesterlund

Consistent with nonprofit fundraising practices, donation visibility has been shown to increase giving. While concern for status is used to explain this response, the authors argue that this explanation relies on the assumption that giving signals only income or generosity. When giving signals both attributes overall status need not increase in donations, and donation-visibility may be harmful when individuals prefer to be perceived as poor-and-generous rather than rich-and-stingy. Using an experiment the authors find that both income-status and generosity-status concerns affect behavior. Furthermore, donation-visibility fails to increase contributions as low-income individuals select low donation amounts that are unlikely to be attributed to high-income individuals.

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Anat Bracha & Lise Vesterlund, How low can you go? Charity reporting when donations signal income and generosity, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Working Papers 13-11, 18 Oct 2013.
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Keywords: charitable donations; lab experiments; status; crowding out
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