Getting warmer? Motivations, messages, and distance to goal in fundraising campaigns Study 2

Last registered on March 21, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Getting warmer? Motivations, messages, and distance to goal in fundraising campaigns Study 2
Initial registration date
March 17, 2023

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
March 21, 2023, 4:37 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

Bates College

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Philanthropy, Charitable Giving, Goal,
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, no motivation) and distance to goal information (no goal, 10%, 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 real donation decision to a charitable organization and answer a few follow-up attitudinal questions about the decision and questions about themselves through an online survey.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Zhang, Qiyun. 2023. "Getting warmer? Motivations, messages, and distance to goal in fundraising campaigns Study 2." AEA RCT Registry. March 21.
Experimental Details


In the experiment, participants are randomly assigned to view one of the 9 campaign advertisements for a literacy charitable organization that contain a motivational message condition (no motivation, altruism, warm glow) in combination with a goal condition (no goal, 10% goal completion, 85% goal completion). Based on the campaign ad, participants make a decision of whether to donate to the organization and how much to donate.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Donation participation and Donation Amount
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Donation participation is a binary outcome of whether one donated or not, noted as 0 and 1. Donation amount is the dollar amount one donated to Literacy Volunteers.

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. Prior to intervention, participants are required to complete 5 math questions to gain a 5-dollar endowment. They are then presented with fundraising ads and asked to make a real donation decision and provide reasoning for the decision through a few attitudinal questions. Participants will also 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 5-7 min survey.
Experimental Design Details
STEP 1: Consent
After reading a brief description of the task on Connect, 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 CloudResearch Connect, 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: Math Tasks
Participants are instructed to complete five easy math problems by providing the correct sum of the numbers provided. They are allowed to use tools and calculators for the questions but they have to answer each question correctly to move on. One sample math task reads
“In the space provided below, please enter the sum of the following three numbers.”

STEP 4: Fundraising Appeal Messaging
Participants are then randomly assigned to one of the nine experimental conditions. They are presented with a donation solicitation with a basic description of the charitable organization, a description of the fundraiser based on the condition assigned, and the fundraising campaign flyer. The donation solicitation message states
“Thank you for participating in our study. Before you go, we would like to offer you the chance to donate a portion of your math question bonus ($2.50) to Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin (LV-A). LV-A is a non-profit organization in Lewiston, Maine affiliated with Pro Literacy America and dedicated to promoting literacy. LV-A's mission is to provide free one-on-one tutoring and other educational services to help local children, adults, and families to acquire basic reading, writing, math, and life skills.
Currently, they are fundraising for a literacy workshop. [They aim to raise $440 in total, which is the amount needed for a year of literacy tutoring for an adult. So far, $44 have been raised offline.] Below is the fundraising flyer.”

The fundraising campaign flyers implement the experimental condition to which the participant has been assigned (see attached images in appendix). The content in the bracket only exists in conditions that contain a goal progress. For these flyers, the altruism message states: “Change lives with a gift to Literacy Volunteers - Androscoggin. Help others enhance lives and achieve aspirations with literacy.” The warm glow appeal instead states “Feed your soul with a gift to Literacy Volunteers - Androscoggin. It feels good to make a difference in the life of a person.” In no motivation conditions, the message is replaced with a neutral message that does not appeal to the benefit to donation recipients (altruism) or benefit to self (warm glow) that states “Donate today. Make a gift to Literacy Volunteers - Androscoggin.” For no motivation, goal progress only conditions, “Help LV-A reach the fundraising goal to continue its mission” is added in the end to remain parallel with conditions with both a goal progress and a motivational message.
Participants are then asked to make a donation decision by selecting “I do not wish to donate to LV-A” or a donation amount ranging from $0.25 to $2.5 in $0.25 increments.

STEP 5: Attitudinal Measures
Then, participants will be prompted to report their attitudes, perception, and rationale for the donation decision. They are informed that the real purpose of the study is “understanding people’s donation choices and preferences.” For people who donated, they are asked to report the extent (ranging from 0 to 10) of agreement to eight statements that cover impact, emotions, and goal progress as motivating factors for donation. Some questions are adapted from Cryder et al. (2013). Sample statements include “Making a donation to LV-A made me feel good;” “My donation is going to help LV-A meet its goals;” and “My donation to LV-A will make a difference in someone's life.” Then, all participants are invited to explain their donation decision in an open-ended question. Following this question, participants who donated are asked “Which of the following, if any, did you consider when making your donation decision to Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin?” The options available are “I will feel good if I make a donation;” “If I donate, will be able to help people and the organization;” “Literacy is important;” “I sympathize with people who benefit from the organization;” “I want to help them reach the fundraising goal;” and the choice to elaborate on other reasons not listed. Participants who did not donate are asked “Which of the following, if any, made you not to donate to Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin?” The choices available are “I don't think literacy is a cause worth supporting;” “I cannot sense that my donation will make an impact;” “The bonus I earned is small so I want to keep the whole amount;” “My donation would be too trivial to help LV-A meet its fundraising goal;” “The beneficiaries of LV-A are not a group I want to help;” “I do not like making donations, in general”; “I don't see any personal benefit in donating;” and a choice to elaborate on a reason not listed. any personal benefit for me do donate;” and a choice to elaborate on a reason not listed.

STEP 6: Prosocial Habit 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” and a “Not applicable” option. For example, participants are asked to report how often they have donated blood, given money to a charity, etc. If the item does not apply, participants may choose “not applicable”.
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 7: 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, online survey participants 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 CloudResearch Connect account they have registered as a Connect worker. They will be paid $1 and the remaining amount of their endowment after deducting the donation amount they made. The donation amount will be directly given to Literacy Volunteers - Androscoggin. 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, presents participants with different fundraising ads through randomization.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The sample is not clustered.
Sample size: planned number of observations
At least 774 participants from CloudResearch, Connect.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
At least 86 in 10% altruism condition, 86 in 85% altruism condition, 86 in 10% warm glow condition, 86 in 85% warm glow condition, 86% in no goal altruism condition, 86 in no goal warm glow condition, 86 in 10% no motivation condition, 86 in 85% no motivation condition, 86 in no goal no motivation condition.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

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

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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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