Study Finds

Collecting Donations? People Give More Under Longer Deadlines, Study Finds

AARHUS, Denmark — Running a 5K for charity? Selling Girl Scout cookies? A recent study finds you might have more success in landing donations if your target donors aren’t under pressure to sponsor you when it comes to deadlines — particularly when they’re asked to donate over email or text.

Researchers from the School of Business and Social Sciences at Aarhus University in Denmark studied how people react to requests for donations by sending a message to 53,000 Danes who had donated money in the last six years to the Danish humanitarian group DanChurchAid. The message was sent over email and text to some of the donors, urging: “If you give a donation within three days, an anonymous contributor will donate an additional DKK 10.”

A new study finds that giving people longer deadlines when seeking donations is more likely to lead to greater generosity.

Other donors were sent the same message, but with a different time limit. For some people it was ten days, and for others it was until the first of the next month. Some of the 33,000 text message recipients were also told they had to make donations by midnight of the following day.

The researchers found that the longer the deadline was, the more likely that people were to donate money.

“We know from other studies that people don’t like pressure when donating money, so we interpret the results to mean that if you pressure people with a short deadline, it creates a sort of give-and-take mindset in the recipient: ‘Alright, I’ll agree to donate quickly, but you’re not getting as much,'” says Mette Trier Damgaard, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of economics at the university, in a news release. ““With our study, we want to provide a more nuanced picture and a greater understanding of where, when and how deadlines work.”

 

The team also found that while people donated more when they had a longer time frame to do so, the majority of the donations were still given during the first two to three days after the texts and emails were sent out. Bette calls this the “now or never” effect.

“The recipients might be aware that if they don’t donate right away, they’ll forget. Another possibility is that they donate quickly to avoid having to be asked again,” she says. “We know from other studies that people will literally go far to avoid the pressure of being asked.”

The study was published last month in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics.

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