[INFOGRAPHIC] 2016 $10 Donor Communications Experiment

We’ve done a couple nonprofit “secret shopping” experiments to see how nonprofits communicate with new donors in the first few days and weeks of the relationship.

This year, we were curious as to whether donor stewardship suffers as a result of online days of giving, so we made a $10 donation to 50 individual nonprofits in a city participating in a 24-hour “day of giving” campaign.

We examined how each followed up to the gift within the first 14 days of the donation. The results are in the infographic below:

bloomerang-infographic-10-donor-communications

Methodology:

  • Each donation was made on a single day in late May 2016, between 11am and 1pm est.
  • All 50 donations were made within 120 minutes.
  • All 50 of the nonprofits were chosen at random.
  • All of the donations were made online through their websites.
  • We used a real name, real address, real phone # and real email address.
  • Each donation constituted a first-time donation to that org. In other words, it was a new entry into their database.
  • Our donations were not made on 5/4/16 during the Give Local America campaign outage.

Highlights:

  • 1/50 made a phone call
  • 0/50 sent handwritten notes
  • 2/50 did not acknowledge the gift
  • 16/18 hand-signed their snail mail thank yous
  • 2/50 included an appeal in their first snail mail thank you letter (“thask”)

The Full Results:

First-Touch: 48/50 organizations made a first-touch

  • 48/50 sent an automated donation acknowledgement email immediately

Second-Touch: 31/50 organizations made a second-touch

  • 12/50 sent a second email acknowledgement
  • 15/50 sent a thank you letter via snail mail
  • 1/50 sent a thank you postcard via snail mail
  • 1/50 sent an event invitation via email
  • 1/50 sent a donor welcome kit via email
  • 1/50 sent an email newsletter

Third-Touch: 5/50 organizations made a third-touch

  • 1/50 sent their first thank you letter via snail mail
  • 1/50 sent a second thank you letter via snail mail
  • 1/50 left a thank you voicemail
  • 1/50 sent their first email acknowledgement
  • 1/50 sent an appeal via email

Fourth-Touch: 2/50 organizations made a fourth-touch

  • 1/50 sent an appeal via email
  • 1/50 sent an event invitation via email

Snail Mail: of the 18 pieces of snail mail:

  • 2/18 arrived in 3 business days
  • 3/18 arrived in 6 business days
  • 3/18 arrived in 7 business days
  • 2/18 arrived in 9 business days
  • 5/18 arrived in 10 business days
  • 2/18 arrived in 12 business days
  • 1/18 arrived in 14 business days

Donation page and form anatomy:

  • 8/50 had a clean URL (www.nonprofit.org/donate)
  • 19/50 had a non-native donation form
  • 36/50 asked for a phone #
    • 19/36 required a phone #
  • 40/50 had a recurring gift option
  • 31/50 had giving level options
    • 3/31 justified their giving level options
    • 30/31 had round number giving level options
  • 5/50 had an employee matching option
  • 14/50 gave a choice of funds
  • 44/50 had an SSL certificate

For help crafting the perfect gift acknowledgement letter, download our free Basic Thank You Letter Template here >>

Conclusion:

Our hypothesis was that the high gift volumes typically experienced during online days of giving would cause even worse results that we had seen in previous experiments, despite a modest increase in gift amount ($5 -> $10). However, they were only marginally worse.

For the first time in three years, however, we did receive our first thank you phone call.

  • email receipts are no substitute for a personal, timely acknowledgement
  • many donation forms are still hosted off-site (19/50 in this case), which could diminish conversions – but most are securely hosted
  • few organizations make more than two touches in the first 14 days
  • few organizations justify their giving ladder options
  • phone #s are often asked for but seldom used

Be sure to check out previous “secret shopping” experiments: 2014 & 2015.

Full 14 Day Cadence:

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#1Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#2Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#3Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement (Postcard)
#4Email Receipt
#5Email ReceiptSnail Mail AcknowledgementSnail Mail Acknowledgement

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#6Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#7Email Receipt
#8Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#9Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#10Email Receipt

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#11Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#12Email ReceiptEmail Welcome Kit
#13Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#14
#15Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#16Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#17Email Receipt
#18Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#19Email Receipt
#20Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#21Email Receipt
#22Email Receipt
#23Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#24Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#25Email Receipt

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#26Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#27
#28Email Receipt
#29Email Receipt
#30Email Receipt

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#31Email ReceiptEmail AcknowledgementEmail AppealEmail Appeal
#32Email Receipt
#33Email Receipt
#34Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#35Email Receipt

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#36Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#37Email Receipt
#38Email ReceiptEmail Event InviteSnail Mail AcknowledgementEmail Event Invite
#39Email ReceiptEmail Newsletter
#40Email ReceiptEmail AcknowledgementEmail Acknowledgement

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#41Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#42Email ReceiptEmail AcknowledgementVoicemail
#43Email Receipt
#44Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#45Email ReceiptSnail Mail AcknowledgementMail Acknowledgement

 

Org1st-Touch2nd-Touch3rd-Touch4th-Touch
#46Email ReceiptSnail Mail Acknowledgement
#47Email Receipt
#48Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#49Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement
#50Email ReceiptEmail Acknowledgement

 

What do you think of the results? Should the nonprofits have done something differently? How does your organization follow-up with new donors? Let us know in the comments below!

gift acknowledgment program

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. She also serves as the Director of Communications for PRSA’s Hoosier chapter.
Kristen Hay
By |2018-01-03T10:32:11-05:00July 25th, 2016|$5 Experiment, Donor Communications|

5 Comments

  1. Dennis Fischman July 26, 2016 at 9:06 am - Reply

    I wonder what would have happened if you’d tracked it out for thirty days. How many more organizations would have added a third “touch”?

    I also wonder how many of the organizations are doing what they’re doing because a) they’ve asked their donors what THEY prefer, b) they’ve studied what works best, or c) they are so frazzled trying to do fundraising as a one-person shop that they’ve consciously decided two touches is as much as they can do? What do you think, Jay?

    • Kristen Hay
      Kristen Hay July 26, 2016 at 10:15 am - Reply

      Hey Dennis! We’ve received very few touches past the 14 day mark other than direct mail appeals and email newsletters.

  2. Sophie Penney July 27, 2016 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    Interesting data, but it begs the question, what benchmarks would one compare to in order to evaluate the results. In other words, is there data from someone like Adrian Sargeant who has written about lifetime value of donors and how to treat them or another expert? My question is not meant to sound like a challenge, simply a suggestion that it’s good to know how this data might compare to what is considered best practice.

  3. Jeremyd August 1, 2016 at 11:29 am - Reply

    This is very interesting – thanks! It would be fascinating to study the results of this on the overall success of these organizations. For example, is donor retention better at the orgs that do a third touch? That would be a bigger study, of course!

  4. Judith August 1, 2016 at 11:37 am - Reply

    I think that if I made a $10 first time donation to a group and they “touched” me (can we find another word here? “Touch” creeps me out) four times in 30 days, I would be irritated. As a nonprofit professional fundraiser as well as a donor to many other nonprofits for more than 30 years, I give because I like what the org does, want a timely thank you and will maybe read an email newsletter. I understand donor engagement and all, but what is considered “best practice” and what is considered pestering?

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