Donors are strongly influenced by how much other people give, a University of Bristol study has found.
Researchers who studied 300,000 online donations found that a single donation of £100 increased subsequent donations by an average of £10 for at least the next 20 donations.
The study, Peer Effects in Charitable Giving: Evidence from the (Running) Field, was based on data from the two largest online fundraising sites – JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving – for the 2010 London Marathon. It analysed a sample of 10,597 pages from the sites, which show a list of the most recent donations.
The effect of large donations on subsequent giving lasted until at least 20 donations later, the study found.
It also found that a single small donation to a website lowers the amounts that are subsequently given by about £5.
Professor Sarah Smith, author of the study from the university’s centre for market and public organisation, said: "I don’t think it will surprise many people to learn that donors are influenced by their peers.
"What is interesting is the sheer scale of the effect – and the fact that it can be negative as well as positive.
"This could be helpful to professional and individual fundraisers in thinking about how to maximise the amount of money they raise.
"Looking at online fundraising also gives us some insight into the psychology of giving. It isn’t as simple as donors competing to be the most generous – or avoiding being the meanest. Instead, it looks like they are trying to find what they think is the right level for them personally, compared with their peers."