Nudging Charitable Giving: What (If Anything) Is Wrong With It?

Rebecca C. Ruehle, Bart Engelen, Alfred Archer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Nudging techniques can help charities to increase donations. In this article, we first provide a systematic overview of prototypical nudges that promote charitable giving. Second, we argue that plenty of the ethical objections raised against nudges, such as the exploitation of power they involve and the arguably intrusive and deceptive nature, are not specific to nudging itself. Carefully designing nudges can help to avoid these worries. Third, given that most concerns boil down to the worry that nudges infringe on people’s autonomy, we analyze when this could nevertheless be justified. We differentiate between perfect duties, imperfect duties, and supererogatory acts and argue that nudges are (a) morally permissible (even when they violate autonomy) when it comes to perfect duties and can (b) provide the best available strategy when it comes to imperfect duties. That said, we also analyze the conditions under which nudging charitable giving is impermissible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-371
Number of pages19
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date10 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


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