Just found this new article in Management Science which may be interesting to the EA community. I am posting for informational purposes without endorsement of the paper. Feel free to discuss or reach out to the authors with feedback and comments :)

Kessler, J. B., Milkman, K. L., and Zhang, C. Y. 2019. “Getting the Rich and Powerful to Give,” Management Science, p. 15.


What motivates the rich and powerful to exhibit generosity? We explore this important question in a large field experiment. We solicit donations from 32,174 alumni of an Ivy League university, including thousands of rich and powerful alumni. Consistent with past psychology research, we find that the rich and powerful respond dramatically, and differently than others, to being given a sense of agency over the use of donated funds. Gifts from rich and powerful alumni increase by 100%–350% when they are given a sense of agency. This response arises primarily on the intensive margin with no effect on the likelihood of donating. Results suggest that motivating the rich and powerful to act may require tailored interventions.

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From experience this gets more and more desirable both the wealthier a donor is and the longer the donor has been wealthy for.

I think the papers phrase “agency” is missing something though. It’s not a sensation of making decisions or being listened to that people are drawn to generally. I’d say it was more ‘proprietorship’ or ‘feeling ownership over the project’, feeling like a causally relevant component of the whole endeavour.

Agency is also, I find, quite patronising!