Giving Reasons: Donor Motivations Interpreted

Professor's Study of Charitable Reciprocity Wins 2007 Best Article Award

Jan. 24, 2008

Economic Inquiry has honored UT Dallas professor Rachel Croson by selecting her study of charity donor motivations as the winner of its 2007 Best Article Award.

The article, titled “Theories of Commitment, Altruism and Reciprocity,” appeared in the journal’s April 2007 issue.

“I'm extremely honored and pleased to win this award,” Dr. Croson said. “I started investigating this topic back in graduate school, and it has remained an active research focus of mine ever since.”

Dr. Croson’s paper investigates why individuals voluntarily make charitable contributions.  She identifies and defines three mechanisms that might cause this behavior:

  • Altruism – caring about others’ consumption.
  • Reciprocity – contributing because others contribute.
  • Commitment – contributing because it's the “right thing to do.”

“I ran an experiment and compared individuals’ giving with their beliefs of how much other people give, and with how much others actually give,” Dr. Croson said. “I found strong support for the reciprocity hypothesis; as others in their group give more, individuals themselves give more.”

The research paved the way for some of Dr. Croson’s further research, examining contributions to public radio stations, libraries and arts organizations. 

“Understanding these motivations can help to increase voluntary charitable gifts and reduce the reliance of these organizations on taxation or other governmental fundraising,” she said.

Dr. Croson joined the UT Dallas last year. She holds a joint appointment as professor of economics in the School of Economics, Political and Policy Sciences and as Professor of Organizations, Strategy and International Management in the School of Management.

She also serves as the Director of the UT Dallas Negotiations Center, an interdisciplinary research center aimed at producing and promoting research on the boundaries of economics, psychology and business. 


Media contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155

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Dr. Rachel Croson
Rachel Croson

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April 23, 2014