Public Goods

Anat Bracha, Michael Menietti, and Lise Vesterlund. 2011. “Seeds to Succeed?: Sequential Giving to Public Projects.” Journal of Public Economics, 95, 5-6, Pp. 416-427. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The public phase of a capital campaign is typically launched with the announcement of a large seed donation. Andreoni (1998) argues that such a fundraising strategy may be particularly effective when funds are being raised for projects that have fixed production costs. The reason is that when there are fixed costs of production simultaneous giving may result in both positive and zero provision equilibria. Thus absent announcements donors may get stuck in an equilibrium that fails to provide a desirable public project. Andreoni (1998) demonstrates that such inferior outcomes can be eliminated when the fundraiser initially secures a sufficiently large seed donation. We investigate this model experimentally to determine whether announcements of seed money eliminate the inefficiencies that may result under fixed costs and simultaneous provision. To assess the strength of the theory we examine the effect of announcements in both the presence and absence of fixed costs. Our findings are supportive of the theory for sufficiently high fixed costs.

Andrea Blasco, Olivia S. Jung, Karim R. Lakhani, and Michael E. Menietti. 4/2019. “Incentives for Public Goods Inside Organizations: Field Experimental Evidence.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 160, Pp. 214-229. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We report results of a natural field experiment conducted at a medical organization that sought contribution of public goods (i.e., projects for organizational improvement) from its 1200 employees. Offering a prize for winning submissions boosted participation by 85 percent without affecting the quality of the submissions. The effect was consistent across gender and job type. We posit that the allure of a prize, in combination with mission-oriented preferences, drove participation. Using a simple model, we estimate that these preferences explain about a third of the magnitude of the effect. We also find that these results were sensitive to the solicited person’s gender.

Andrea Blasco, Olivia S. Jung, Karim R. Lakhani, and Michael Menietti. 2016. Motivating Effort in Contributing to Public Goods Inside Organizations: Field Experimental Evidence. National Bureau of Economic Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We investigate the factors driving workers’ decisions to generate public goods inside an organization through a randomized solicitation of workplace improvement proposals in a medical center with 1200 employees. We find that pecuniary incentives, such as winning a prize, generate a threefold increase in participation compared to non-pecuniary incentives alone, such as prestige or recognition. Participation is also increased by a solicitation appealing to improving the workplace. However, emphasizing the patient mission of the organization led to countervailing effects on participation. Overall, these results are consistent with workers having multiple underlying motivations to contribute to public goods inside the organization consisting of a combination of pecuniary and altruistic incentives associated with the mission of the organization.


Seeds to Succeed? Sequential Giving to Public Projects


Incentives for Public Goods Inside Organizations: Field Experimental Evidence