Does online fundraising increase charitable giving? We implemented a natural field experiment across Germany, randomly assigning all of the country's 8,000 zip codes to Save the Children Facebook fundraising videos or a pure control and studied changes in the volume of donations to this and other similar charities by zip code. Our design circumvents many shortcomings inherent in studies based on click-through data, especially substitution and measurement issues. We found that (i) the video fundraising increased donation frequency and value to Save the Children during the campaign and in the subsequent five weeks; (ii) the campaign was profitable for the fundraiser; and (iii) the effects were similar independent of the video content and impression assignment strategy. However, we also found that the overall volume of donations does not increase, due to a massive crowding out of donations to other similar charities. Finally, we demonstrate that click data are an inappropriate proxy for donations.
Charitable giving field experiments fundraising social media competition