A literature review of experimental studies in fundraising

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Abhishek Bhati
Ruth K. Hansen


Fundraising, Charitable giving, Donations, Experimental methods


This paper extends previous literature reviews focusing on fundraising and the mechanisms motivating charitable giving. We analyze 187 experimental research articles focusing on fundraising, published in journals across diverse disciplines between 2007-2019. Interest in studying fundraising spans many disciplines, each of which tends to focus on different aspects, supporting earlier claims that fundraising has no single academic “home.” Most of the literature focuses on two key areas: the philanthropic environment in which fundraising occurs, largely focused on potential donors’ experiences, preferences, and motivations; and testing fundraising tactics and techniques that result in different behavior by potential donors. More than 40% of the experiments were published in Economics journals. Correspondingly, topics such as warm glow and mechanisms such as lotteries, raffles, and auctions are well represented. Experimental studies largely omit the practical and the ethical considerations of fundraisers and of beneficiaries. For instance, studies focusing on the identified victim phenomenon often stereotype beneficiaries in order to foster guilt among donors and thereby increase giving. We identify several opportunities for research to examine new questions to support ethical and effective fundraising practice and nonprofit administration.

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