Nudging Charitable Giving: What (If Anything) Is Wrong With It?

Rebecca Von Oldenburg-Ruehle*, Bart Engelen, Alfred Archer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Nudging techniques can help charities to increase donations. In this article, we first provide a systematic overview of prototypical nudges that promote charitable giving. Second, we argue that plenty of the ethical objections raised against nudges, such as the exploitation of power they involve and the arguably intrusive and deceptive nature, are not specific to nudging itself. Carefully designing nudges can help to avoid these worries. Third, given that most concerns boil down to the worry that nudges infringe on people’s autonomy, we analyze when this could nevertheless be justified. We differentiate between perfect duties, imperfect duties, and supererogatory acts and argue that nudges are (a) morally permissible (even when they violate autonomy) when it comes to perfect duties and can (b) provide the best available strategy when it comes to imperfect duties. That said, we also analyze the conditions under which nudging charitable giving is impermissible.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0899764020954266
Pages (from-to)353-371
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020


  • autonomy
  • charitable giving
  • nudging
  • perfect and imperfect duties
  • supererogation


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