Article | Journal of Marketing Research (JMR)

Contingent Match Incentives Increase Donations

by Lalin Anik, Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely


We propose a new means by which non-profits can induce donors to give today and commit to giving in the future: contingent match incentives, in which matching is made contingent on the percentage of others who give (e.g., "if X% of others give, we will match all donations"). A field experiment shows that a 75% contingent match (where matches "kick in" only if 75% of others donate) is most effective in increasing commitment to recurring donations. An online experiment reveals that the 75% contingent match drives commitment to recurring donations because it simultaneously provides social proof yet offers a low enough target that it remains plausible that the match will occur. A final online experiment demonstrates that the effectiveness of the 75% contingent match extends to one-time donations. We discuss the practical and theoretical implications of contingent matches for managers and academics.

Keywords: matching donations; social proof; prosocial behavior; charitable giving; plausibility; Motivation and Incentives; Giving and Philanthropy;


Anik, Lalin, Michael I. Norton, and Dan Ariely. "Contingent Match Incentives Increase Donations." Journal of Marketing Research (JMR) 51, no. 6 (December 2014): 790–801.