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Title page for ETD etd-04302010-112406

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Trafton, Tamara Lynn
URN etd-04302010-112406
Title On Giving, Gambling, and Glow: Experimental Evidence
Degree PhD
Department Economics
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Myrna Wooders Committee Chair
James Foster Committee Member
Mikhael Shor Committee Member
Tong Li Committee Member
  • charitable giving
  • experiment
  • donor control
  • gift
  • suggested contribution
Date of Defense 2010-04-26
Availability unrestricted
In recent years we have seen that nonprofit organizations increasingly offer donors new and interesting ways to contribute. Many of these new solicitation methods frame charitable donations (of money) as charitable gifts, and charitable gifts as alternatives to traditional gifts. Through charitable gift catalogues, containing pictures, descriptions, choices, and prices, donors are able to go shopping for charitable gifts for the recipients of a charity’s funds, as well as for friends, family, and acquaintances (by contributing gifts in their honor, as replacements for traditional gifts). My dissertation utilizes laboratory experiments to examine the causes and consequences of providing donors with these new ways to contribute. In the first chapter, I find evidence that a mental distinction exists between donating money and purchasing a charitable gift. I control for two salient components of a gift purchase – choice and prices – and find that their interaction yields significant effects on giving, though the sign of these effects depends upon the age of the donor. Older donors appear to prefer donations (of cash) and younger donors appear to prefer giving charitable gifts. In the second chapter, I find evidence that nonprofits are able to successfully frame a charitable gift purchase as a viable substitute for or addition to a Valentine’s Day gift by allowing donors to contribute a charitable gift in honor of somebody special to them. The added effect of the Valentine frame is positive for younger donors and negative for older donors. In the third chapter, I address an experiment design question that was raised while conducting pilot experiments for the first chapter: Is stake size or the probability of payment more salient to experiment subjects? I find that stake size appears to be more influential, though additional experiments are needed to confirm this result.
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