Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 38 Number 1 2021 pp. 82-107

Mitigating the Adverse Effect of Monetary Incentives on Voluntary Contributions Online

Qiao, Dandan, Lee, Shun-Yang, Whinston, Andrew B, and Wei, Qiang


Numerous online information systems (e.g., question and answer [Q&A] forums, citizen science communities, and review websites) rely heavily on volunteer contributions. Managers have used monetary incentives to induce individuals to increase their contribution level. However, monetary incentives could also generate adverse effects, which could dampen individuals’ intrinsic motivation and lead to lower contribution quality when incentives are small. To address this issue, we propose two intervention strategies, goal-setting and challenge-seeking, and conduct a series of randomized experiments. We find that small monetary incentives, when combined with the appropriate intervention strategies, can motivate users to increase contribution quantity while simultaneously sustaining high quality. Thus, integrating such intervention strategies with small incentives can be a cost-effective way to encourage voluntary contributions. Our research contributes to the literature on incentive provision and provides theoretical and practical implications for platforms relying on voluntary contributions.

Key words and phrases: Co-creation, online incentives, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, altruism, monetary incentives, goal-setting, challenge-seeking, user-generated content, UGC