Experimental Economics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 577–594 | Cite as

How to hire helpers? Evidence from a field experiment

  • Julian Conrads
  • Bernd Irlenbusch
  • Tommaso ReggianiEmail author
  • Rainer Michael Rilke
  • Dirk Sliwka
Original Paper


How to hire voluntary helpers? We shed new light on this question by reporting a field experiment in which we invited 2859 students to help at the ‘ESA Europe 2012’ conference. Invitation emails varied non-monetary and monetary incentives to convince subjects to offer help. Students could apply to help at the conference and, if so, also specify the working time they wanted to provide. Just asking subjects to volunteer or offering them a certificate turned out to be significantly more motivating than mentioning that the regular conference fee would be waived for helpers. By means of an online-survey experiment, we find that intrinsic motivation to help is likely to have been crowded out by mentioning the waived fee. Increasing monetary incentives by varying hourly wages of 1, 5, and 10 Euros shows positive effects on the number of applications and on the working time offered. However, when comparing these results with treatments without any monetary compensation, the number of applications could not be increased by offering money and may even be reduced.


Recruitment Voluntary work Monetary incentives Field experiment 

JEL Classification

C93 J33 M52 



We are grateful to Thomas Lauer, Oliver Gürtler, Christian Ruppert and Julia Stauff for their help in conducting the experiment. We also thank the Editor, two anonymous referees, Max Bazerman, Oleg Badunenko, Antonio Filippin, Andrew Kinder, Steve Levitt, John List, Susanne Neckermann, Gerhard Riener, Alessandro Saia, and seminar participants at University of Chicago, University of Paderborn and EALE Conference 2014 (Ljubljana) for helpful comments. Financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through grant TP3 Design of Incentive Schemes within Firms: Bonus Systems and Performance Evaluations (sub-project of the DFG-Forschergruppe Design and Behavior) is gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10683_2015_9455_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (328 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 328 kb)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julian Conrads
    • 1
  • Bernd Irlenbusch
    • 1
  • Tommaso Reggiani
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rainer Michael Rilke
    • 1
  • Dirk Sliwka
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Corporate Development and Business EthicsUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Department of Personnel EconomicsUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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