Does Windfall Money Encourage Charitable Giving? An Experimental Study

  • Huafang Li
  • Jie Liang
  • Hui Xu
  • Yingxi Liu
Original Paper


Recently, increasing numbers of nonprofit studies have used experiments to understand individuals’ charitable giving decisions. One significant gap between experimental settings and the real world is the way in which individuals earn the incomes that they use for charitable donations. This study examined the relationship between individuals’ income sources and their charitable giving decisions. To do so, we conducted a laboratory experiment with 188 college students and asked them to donate with windfall money or with money earned from a real task, respectively. The findings showed that participants donated more to charities if their funds derived from windfall gains. Implications for conducting experiments and motivating donors are also discussed.


Windfall effect Charitable giving Laboratory experiment 



We thank Rene Bekkers, Weigang Fu, Haoran He, Zhiwei Liu, Alex Ingrams, Gregg G. Van Ryzin, Sanjay Pandey for helpful comments. We also thank Shuying Wang for the help in z-Tree programming. For all remaining errors, authors may blame each other.


The authors acknowledged the financial support from the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interests with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public, Nonprofit and Health AdministrationGrand Valley State UniversityGrand RapidsUSA
  2. 2.Shanghai University of Finance and EconomicsShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.Yunnan University of Finance and EconomicsKunmingChina

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