We report results of a natural field experiment conducted at a medical organization that sought contribution of public goods (i.e., projects for organizational improvement) from its 1200 employees. Offering a prize for winning submissions boosted participation by 85 percent without affecting the quality of the submissions. The effect was consistent across gender and job type. We posit that the allure of a prize, in combination with mission-oriented preferences, drove participation. Using a simple model, we estimate that these preferences explain about a third of the magnitude of the effect. We also find that these results were sensitive to the solicited person’s gender.
Effect of different incentives on two main outcomes: (a) the decision to submit a proposal and engage in an organizational improvement task and (b) the quality of the submissions measured by over 12,000 peer ratings and about 100 evaluations made by the contest organizers.
Employees were less likely to participate when solicited with the funding opportunity alone. Small prizes boosted participation without lowering the quality of the submissions.