Enhancing donor agency to improve charitable giving: Strategies and heterogeneity

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This research investigates whether charities can enhance fundraising effectiveness by increasing donors’ sense of agency. This article introduces two strategies that allow donors to target individual charitable projects, either via the choice options (targeting-via-options) or via the suggested donation amounts (targeting-via-amounts). A large-scale field experiment involving more than 40,000 prospective donors manipulates the ability to control the allocation of the charity's resources and finds that enhancing donor agency boosts fundraising revenue by 42%. A causal forest analysis indicates significant donor heterogeneity, with a subset of donors being three times more responsive to the opportunity to target their gift than the average donor. Inactive donors, “clumpy” donors (who exhibit uneven donation patterns), and donors who concentrate their gifts during the popular giving periods are less responsive to interventions, whereas frequent, generous, and long-tenured donors are more responsive to them. Three experiments offer stronger internal validity regarding the manipulations and process evidence that agency—and not emotion—is responsible for the increased donation effects. An optimization analysis provides implications for how charities can leverage these insights to manage their fundraising campaigns to greater success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-655
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Marketing
Issue number4
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the NWO Vidi Grant (grant number 452-12-011).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


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