Name Similarity Encourages Generosity
In a randomized field experiment with the education charitable giving platform DonorsChoose.org, we examined email personalization using a potential donor’s name. We measured the effectiveness of matching potential donors to specific teachers in need based on surname, surname initial letters, gender, ethnicity, and surname country of origin.
Full surname matching was most effective, with potential donors being more likely to open an email, click on a link in the email, and donate to teachers who shared their own surname. They also donated more money overall. Our results suggest that uniting people with shared names is an effective individual-level approach to email personalization. For instance, the following names can be considered as similar: Eugene – Eagen, Gene; Radovan – Radwan, Radoslav; Mark – Marc, Marek; Davor – Devor, Javor, Davos, Devoy, etc.
Potential donors who shared a surname first letter but not an entire name with teachers also behaved more generously. We discuss how using a person’s name in marketing communications may capture attention and bridge social distance.