Large institutions matching donations in charitable appeals have often struck me as being odd. Why should that be the case? If I care about a cause, why should somebody else’s matching donation influence my decision. Moreover, as a large institution contributing to charity, why am I holding up my generosity until several other people volunteer their money?
Imagine that a flood has rampaged a particular Indian state. Let’s say that the Tata Trusts has set aside Rs 10 million towards this cause. On the one hand, the trust directly donates this amount towards flood relief, while on the other, it offers to match donations made by the general public. Put yourself in those two situations. Where are you likely to contribute more? The appeal to match donations isn’t as much about holding back as it is about inspiring other people to chip in.
We humans are quid-pro-quo creatures. When we see our actions are being reciprocated, we are far more likely to act. We do unto others what we would have them do to us. When we see someone’s else’s generosity, we match it with ours.
Give, and thou shalt receive.