"Household Roles, Family Decision-Making, and Charitable Giving" consists of two projects, which use interviews and field experiments to study how married couples make decisions about charitable giving and how nonprofits can most effectively appeal to the roles and emotions related to family in writing fundraising appeals. In the first project, we will interview married couples about how they make decisions about which organizations they give money to, and how much they give. At the end of the interview, we will give couples an additional $20 or $50 and ask them whether they want to keep it or donate it to charity. We can compare their actual decision making process with what they told us in the interview. In the second project, we will team up with local nonprofits to help them design fundraising letters, and then do field experiments to see which letters raise the most money.
While most charitable donors are married and make donation decisions in consultation with their spouse, we know little about how couples make these decisions. Fundraisers use family-based imagery and stories to inspire empathy among donors, but we have little hard scientific evidence demonstrating that these strategies work. By testing social scientific theories of altruism in real-world settings, we hope to both advance scientific knowledge and help charities raise money more effectively.