Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization

Kurt Munz, Minah Jung and Adam Alter

In a randomized field experiment with the charitable giving platform DonorsChoose.org (N = 30,297), we examined whether potential donors were more generous toward beneficiaries who shared their surnames. DonorsChoose.org allows classroom teachers to solicit online donations to support proposed classroom projects. The platform advertises these projects by sending emails to potential donors. Name-matched potential donors were more likely to open an email, click on a link in the email, and make a donation, and they donated more than twice as much compared to those who were asked to donate to a teacher who did not share their own surname. Our results suggest that uniting people with shared names is an effective individual-level approach to email personalization, even when name-matching is transparently designed to promote generosity. We also tested for name-letter effects, finding that potential donors who shared a first letter but not an entire name with teachers also behaved more generously. This result supports the principle of “implicit egotism,” which suggests that people are drawn to stimuli that remind them of themselves.

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Conference Presentations

"Charitable Giving to Teachers with the Same Name: A Field Experiment," (2017) Special session presented at the Association for Consumer Research Conference San Diego, CA.

"Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization," (2018) Symposium presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference Dallas, TX.