Altruism, warm glow, and charitable giving: Three experiments

R.H.F.P. Bekkers, M. Ottoni-Wilhelm, D.J. Verkaik

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperOther research output


One of the key questions in the science of philanthropy is to what extent donations to charity are motivated by altruism – concern for public benefits, including the well-being of recipients – and warm glow – concerns for private benefits, including emotional gratification. To disentangle altruism and warm glow as motivations for giving we propose a crowding-out field experiment in the Netherlands, for which funding from the Science of Philanthropy Initiative was granted. The field experiment also seeks to test whether empathic concern for recipients and an appeal to the moral principle of care affect the level of crowding-out. This report documents the steps taken towards the execution of the field experiment. In three pilot experiments we developed and tested materials and procedures required for a valid and reliable test. In the first experiment we tested a method commonly used in social psychology to induce empathy, finding no significant effects on a reliable measure of the temporary state of empathy among participants in the Netherlands. However, we did find that inductions of empathy and the principle of care affected the level of crowding-out. In the second experiment among participants in the Netherlands we tested a set of subtle manipulations of warm glow motivations and developed a reliable measure of the temporary state of moral care similar to the measure of the state of empathic concern. In addition, we tested a procedure developed in a previous experiment with charitable giving designed to measure altruism and warm glow motives, finding no meaningful crowd-out. In the third experiment we tested among US participants whether an appeal to the principle of care incorporated in three visually different versions of a mission statement of a large international development charity (Oxfam America) affected the principle of care, empathic concern, personal distress, and several evaluations of the charity. We found consistently positive though modest effects of a text-only version. Based on these experiments we propose a fourth experiment testing a text-only manipulation of the principle of care.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventPaper presented at the 43rd ARNOVA Conference, Chicago, November 19-21, 2015 - Chicago, IL
Duration: 1 Jan 20151 Jan 2015


ConferencePaper presented at the 43rd ARNOVA Conference, Chicago, November 19-21, 2015

Bibliographical note

Place of publication: Chicago, IL


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