Study says fundraisers should make an ask before people get windfalls

The paper says people are more generous before they know how much money they will receive

Fundraisers could boost donations by asking people to commit to giving before they receive windfalls, according to a new academic study.

Researchers discovered that people were more likely to pledge to donate – and more likely to pledge to donate higher sums – if they did so before they received an unexpected cash boost.

David Reinstein, co-author of the study Ex-ante Commitments to 'Give if You Win' Exceed Donations After a Win, said the findings had major implications for charity fundraising.

Reinstein said: "Charities think carefully about when and how to ask for donations from various sources of income and we have the first evidence suggesting that people are more generous before they know how much money they will receive."

The study, which appears in the January edition of the Journal of Public Economics, says the findings could be particularly useful for charities targeting City workers because it suggests they would be better asking them to donate if they were to earn a bonus rather than waiting until after it’s known how much the bonus is worth.

It also suggests lottery operators could include a box on tickets for players to tick if they want to pledge to donate a share of any winnings, and urges governments to promote windfall giving as part of giving schemes.

The study is based on five different real-life experiments involving 1,363 British and German small lottery winners between 2012 and 2017.

The results revealed that people were 23 per cent more likely to commit to donate before they knew they would win, and gave 25 per cent more than people who were asked to give after they knew they had won.

Reinstein, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Exeter Business School, told Third Sector that charities could boost legacy donations by requesting gifts from legatees before they knew how much they would inherit.

He said many sudden changes in financial circumstances were unplanned or due to chance, such as lottery wins, inheritances, bonuses or landing a new job with a larger salary.

"So securing a conditional commitment can be extremely worthwhile for charities and other bodies that rely on public generosity," he added.

"We’re now looking to build on this research and are looking for charities, businesses and government bodies that would like to be involved."

Reinstein invited anyone keen to take part in a larger trial to visit here.

Christian Kellner, an economics lecturer at the University of Southampton, and Gerhard Riener, an assistant professor in economics at the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf, were also involved with the study.

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