Organizations that depend on voluntary contributions face unique managerial challenges. In this project, we examine whether emphasizing the salience of project output (i.e., project outcome) or project input (i.e., labor costs) affect the quantity and quality of contributions using a randomized field experiment on the world's largest crowd science platform. We manipulate whether participants receive information that emphasizes their contribution to the eventual outcome of a task or information that emphasizes their contribution to the labor required for a task. We find that increasing the salience of both output and input value decreases voluntary participation but increases the contribution quality. Our findings are consistent with information improving the match quality between the task and the volunteer. We complement our field experiment with a survey experiment and find evidence that individuals who select out of volunteering in response to the task information provided substitute by donating money from wage work. We discuss implications for organizations employing voluntary labor.
Number of contributors, number of contributions made per contributor, quality of contributions
Mean outcome comparisons between treatment and control pages demonstrate that first, our treatments impact the types of people that contribute to the project. Contributors to the project page that emphasizes the value of contributor input have lower average scientific experience and capabilities than those who contribute to the output and control pages. These patterns suggest that individuals who contribute to the input page perceive the value of their labor supply as relatively low and are induced to engage when they learn that their labor supply is valuable relative to the organization's outside option. Second, the treatments also affect the quantity and quality of work completed. Both treatments lead to a reduction in the number of classifications each contributor makes relative to the control page. However, once we weight classifications for quality (measured by the accuracy of classifications against expert classifications), the differences between number of contributions across pages become insignificant. This suggests that both treatments improve the quality of classifications at the expense of a reduction in the overall quantity of classifications. Our findings are consistent with information improving the match quality between the task and the volunteer.
To address measurement limitations associated with our field experiment, we complement our field experiment with a survey experiment in which respondents are randomly assigned high or low outside wage options, and an output or input-based volunteer task motivation. Our survey experiment results support our field experimental results by demonstrating that emphasizing output value of voluntary contributions changes the quantity and composition of volunteers relative to emphasizing the input value of voluntary contributions. Moreover, we find that individuals who select out of volunteering due to the information provision on the task motivation are more likely to compensate with monetary donations than those who would not volunteer regardless of how the task is framed.