Getting warmer? Motivations, messages, and distance to goal in fundraising campaigns

Last registered on March 08, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Getting warmer? Motivations, messages, and distance to goal in fundraising campaigns
Initial registration date
November 11, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
November 17, 2022, 3:42 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
March 08, 2023, 6:39 PM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

Bates College

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Bates College

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
According to a 2022 report published by Giving USA, the total amount of charitable giving that U.S charities received in 2021 reached $484.85 billion, with nearly $330 billion of this amount given by individuals. This total accounts for approximately 2% of the 2021 U.S. GDP. Understanding prosocial preferences and behaviors is of importance to policymakers and public economists who seek to maximize public welfare and most efficiently create public goods and to the directors of non-profit charitable organizations who seek to maximize giving. Previous research has identified pure altruism and warm glow as two important motivations for charitable giving. One of the contextual and environmental factors, the use of goal in fundraising campaigns, has been found to impact giving. The purpose of this research is to understand people's preferences and behaviors for charitable giving. We seek to understand how messaging of different motivation frames (pure altruism, warm glow) and distance to goal information (10%, 67%, 85% to goal) affect donation. The trial is conducted using a survey through an online research platform, Cloud Research. Participants will be asked to make a choice in a hypothetical charitable giving scenario and will be asked to answer a few questions about themselves in this 3-minute survey.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Goff, Sandra and Qiyun Zhang. 2023. "Getting warmer? Motivations, messages, and distance to goal in fundraising campaigns." AEA RCT Registry. March 08.
Experimental Details


In the survey, participants are randomly assigned to view one of the 8 campaign advertisements that contain either a pure altruism appealing message or a warm glow appealing message in combination with one of the goal conditions. Based on the campaign ad, participants rate their likelihood to donate to the organization and state their donation amount.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
reported likelihood to donate and stated donation amount
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The outcomes are measured based on the self-reported value of likelihood to donate (on a point scale from 1 to 10), and donation amount (whole dollar amount) by participants after viewing one of the fundraising campaign ads.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The trial is conducted using a survey through an online research platform, Cloud Research. Participants will be asked to make a choice in a hypothetical charitable giving scenario and will be asked to answer a few questions about themselves such as prosocial behavior in the past 12 months, race and ethnicity, gender, age, race/ethnicity, income, employment status, level of education, religion and affiliation, in this 3-min survey.
Experimental Design Details
STEP 1: Consent
After reading a brief description of the task on MTurk, participants wishing to participate will click a link that takes them to a Qualtrics survey. The landing page of the survey is the consent form. Only participants providing their consent will continue with the study. Participants who do not provide their consent will be exited from the survey.

STEP 2: Attention/Integrity Check
Because this work is being performed on MTurk, we include an attention/integrity check to improve our chances of receiving high-quality data. Participants are asked to copy the following statement in the space provided and to do so using only capital letters
“While completing this task I will pay close attention to all questions and answer each to the best of my ability”
Participants receive two chances to correctly enter this statement. Participants who fail to correctly enter the statement on the second attempt are removed from the study.

STEP 3: Fundraising Appeal Messaging
Participants are then presented with basic information about the charitable organization, the Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI):

“The scenario you will encounter today involves the Children's Literacy Initiative (CLI). CLI is a non-governmental organization dedicated to children's literacy development. It was founded in 1988, headquartered in Pennsylvania. CLI mainly serves schools in largely under-resourced, low-income areas on the east coast with the mission to elevate the reading levels of primary school students. Note that the researchers are not associated with CLI.”

In addition to this message, participants receive a randomly assigned hypothetical fundraising campaign flyer along with the following message: “Suppose your friend is holding a fundraiser for the Children’s Literacy Initiative with a goal to raise $3000. Your friend sends you the fundraising flyer below.” The fundraising campaign flyers implement the experimental condition to which the participant has been assigned (see the attached images in the appendix). For these flyers, the altruism message states: “Empower children with a gift to Children’s Literacy Initiative. Help children grow into powerful readers, writers, and thinkers.” The warm glow appeal instead states “Feed your soul with a gift to Children’s Literacy. It feels good to make a difference in the life of a child.”

* AMENDMENT: With 5 additional conditions added to test baselines, substitution and modifications are made. In conditions without mentioning goal progress or information, the total goal amount or progress is not presented in the scenario description or on the flyer. For conditions without motivational messaging (appeal to altruism or warm-glow), the messaging on the flyer is substituted to "Donate today. Make a gift to Children’s Literacy Initiative." For goals-only conditions without motivational messaging, the flyer states "Donate today. Make a gift to Children’s Literacy Initiative. Help CLI reach its fundraising goal to continue its mission"

Upon viewing this flyer, the participant is asked to click on four areas on the fundraising flyer they find interesting. This activity is used as an attention check, to slow participants down to help them to pay more attention to the flyer (and, hence, the treatments), and to determine whether participants notice the study interventions (message, goal progress). Participants are then asked to report how likely they would be to donate on a scale from 0 (definitely would not donate) to 10 (definitely would donate).

Participants who state that their likelihood of donation as greater than or equal to 1 are considered potential donors and are asked to state approximately how much they would be willing to donate in whole dollar amounts. Participants who state they would not donate (likelihood rating = 0) are assumed to have an expected donation of $0.

STEP 4: Attitudinal Measures and Demographic Information
Next, we assess participants’ prosocial behaviors in the past 12 months through items adopted from the 11 prosocial acts from the General Social Survey (2022) Section G – Altruism. Engagement in each of the prosocial behaviors is measured on a 6-point scale ranging from “More than once a week” to “Not at all in a year.” For example, participants are asked to report how often they have donated blood, given money to a charity, etc.

Lastly, participants will be asked to report demographic characteristics including gender identity, religion, state of residence, education levels, employment status, income and race/ethnicity.

STEP 5: Payment and Debriefing
Although deception is not used in this study, participants are not informed about the various experimental conditions used or the hypotheses of the study, suggesting that a debriefing message may be indicated. However, MTurk users are known to communicate with other users through online message boards. To prevent communication between workers and the potential for contamination, participants will receive a message at the end of the survey that encourages them to reach out to researchers for debriefing information and a detailed debriefing form will be shared with them by email when the research is concluded. They will then be thanked for their participation and payment will be made to them using the Amazon account they have registered as an MTurk worker. The data collected will be stored in Qualtrics and will then be downloaded by researchers to a password-protected laptop into a password-protected file.
Randomization Method
The online survey tool, Qualtrics, present participants with different hypothetical fundraising ads though randomization.
Randomization Unit
individual randomization
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The sample is not clustered.
Sample size: planned number of observations
800 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers * AMENDMENT: 1300 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers with additional conditions added
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
100 in no goal*altruism conditions, 100 in no goal*warmglow condition, 100 in 10%*altruism condition, 100 in 67%*altruism condition, 100 in 85%*altruism condition, 100 in 10%*warmglow condition, 100 in 67%*warmglow condition, 100 in 85%*warmglow condition

*AMENDMENT: additional 100 in no goal info* warmglow condition, 100 in no goal info* altruism condition, 100 in no motivation* 10% condition, 100 in no motivation 85%, 100 in no motivation* no goal info condition.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Bates College Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information


Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials