A nonprofit’s donor communications strategy can make or break the relationship with a donor. It’s even more critical for first-time donors, 77.1% of which lapse on average.

We were curious how the average nonprofit follows up with a first-time donor. That’s why we made a $5 donation to 50 individual nonprofits in the Indianapolis-metro area. This is how they followed-up:



  • Each donation was made on the afternoon of July 18th, 2014.
  • All 50 donations were made within 60 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.

The Results:

48/50 (96%) sent an email receipt within 60 seconds of the donation (first response).

  • 22/48 emails were from the payment processor.
  • 26/48 emails were branded from the organization.
  • 5/22 organizations who sent payment processor emails also sent a branded email acknowledgement shortly after.

2/50 (4%) have sent no acknowledgement of any kind. 0/50 (0%) made thank you phone calls.

  • 19/50 (38%) asked for a phone # on the donation form.

17/50 (34%) sent a physical acknowledgement letter through the mail as the second response.

  • The fastest letter came within 5 days of the gift
  • The slowest letter came within 13 days of the gift
  • 2/17 included a brochure or piece of printed collateral
  • 2/17 included a hand-written note
  • 1/17 asked for a response

10/50 (20%) sent an email as the second response.

  • 5/10 came on the same day as the donation
  • 1/10 came 1 day after donation
  • 2/10 came 3 days after donation
  • 2/10 came 13 days after donation

3/50 (6%) sent a physical acknowledgement letter through the mail as the third response.

  • 1/3 included a hand-written note

2/50 (4%) sent an email as the third response.

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

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. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.