Redesigning the market for volunteers: A donor registry

Stephanie A. Heger, Robert Slonim, Ellen Garbarino, Carmen Wang, Daniel Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses volunteer labor markets where the lack of price signals, nonpecuniary motivations to supply labor, and limited fungibility of supply lead to market failure. To address the causes of the market failure, we conduct a field experiment with volunteer whole blood donors where we introduce a market-clearing mechanism (henceforth: the Registry). Our intention-to-treat estimates suggest that subjects invited to the Registry, regardless of joining, are 66% more responsive to critical shortage appeals than control subjects. While the Registry increases supply during a critical shortage episode, it does not increase supply when there is no shortage; thus, the Registry significantly improves coordination between volunteer donors and collection centers, thereby improving market outcomes. We find evidence that the Registry’s effectiveness stems from crowding-in volunteers with purely altruistic motives and volunteers with a preference for commitment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3528-3541
Number of pages14
JournalManagement Science
Issue number8
Early online date14 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Altruism
  • Ask avoidance
  • Commitment
  • Coordination
  • Market design
  • Market failure
  • Voluntary labor

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