Relational altruism and giving in social groups

Kimberley Scharf, Sarah L Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
448 Downloads (Pure)


Much fundraising is done by individuals within existing social groups. Exploiting a unique dataset, we demonstrate (i) a positive relationship between social group size and the number of donations; (ii) a negative relationship between group size and the size of individual donations; (iii) no clear relationship between group size and the total amount raised. Free riding with respect to the activity being funded cannot explain the relationship between group size and donation size, since the number of social group members is only a subset of total contributors. Instead, the findings are consistent with the notion that giving in social groups is motivated by “relational altruism”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Early online date15 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Online giving
  • Fundraising
  • Social groups
  • Donations
  • Charity
  • Altruism


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