[INFOGRAPHIC] 2014 $5 Donor Communications Experiment

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. She also serves as the Director of Communications for PRSA’s Hoosier chapter.
Kristen Hay
By |2018-01-03T10:42:49-05:00September 3rd, 2014|$5 Experiment, Donor Communications|


  1. Sandy Rees September 3, 2014 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Great info! Unbelievable that there are still some nonprofits who send NO acknowledgement of any kind. Apparently they don’t want repeat gifts.

  2. Ann Green September 3, 2014 at 10:59 am - Reply

    I agree, great info! It would be interesting to see how these organizations stay in tough the year.

  3. Jessica White September 3, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    First, I am embarrassed that two of our Indianapolis nonprofits did not acknowledge the gift at all. We can do better! While an email response from the payment processor is expected, a follow up letter should also go out within 48 hours of receipt of the gift. The fact that no one made a phone call to thank the donor shows that those organizations who choose to do so will be way ahead of the game. A personal response is always the best and takes so little time to do.

    Thanks for the information. It’s good to know where our organizations need more work.

  4. John Paff September 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    I would like to see this experiment repeated with a larger gift, perhaps $50. It is possible that different gift levels trigger different responses. Phone calls cost time (and money) to make. While all donors should be thanked appropriately, it could be considered irresponsible for the charity to expend more than the amount of the gift on repeated, costly acknowlegements.

    • Jessica White September 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Most local nonprofits never receive so many donations in one day that they can’t make a call to thank every donor. In addition, what seems to be a costly acknowledgement for a $5 gift could be the beginning of a long-term relationship that brings larger gifts in the future. If nothing else, give a list of these “small” gifts to your board members and let them make the thank you calls.

  5. […] Bloomerang’s Great $5 Experiment […]

  6. claire axelrad September 3, 2014 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    Awesome study! I would love to see a study for different levels of gifts.

    Re Phone Calls: First, it seems pretty nutty that only 38% asked for a phone number. You want to be able to communicate easily with your donors folks! If you’d ever given for the first time to any nonprofit for which I worked you’d have received a phone call (I always made sure first-time donors of $100+ got calls). We’d experiment making calls to a percentage of first-time donors below that amount, but never ended up with anything definitive showing this was worth/not worth the effort. Ideally you’d call every donor to thank them. However, for most nonprofits this is not feasible. Yet if you’re a small nonprofit I’d encourage you to give it a try. What better way to get to the point where you’ve too many donors to call all of them?!

    Re Letters: I hate to see online donors treated differently than offline donors. I wonder if the organizations taking 5 days or more to send a letter to you also take that much time responding to someone who gives through “snail mail”? I’d like to see organizations striving to turn their thank you’s around in 48 hours (and I have an E-Guide on my clairification website that shows folks how to accomplish this).

    Re Inserts and Personalization: It saddens me that so few nonprofits are taking the opportunity to welcome you as a new donor to their community/family. One would hope your gift is the beginning of a budding relationship, and not a singular transaction. For that to happen requires sending you, the donor, information about other ways to become involved. I always send a Welcome Package to all first time donors to inform them a bit more about the organization (e.g. some stories) and let them know we welcome their involvement beyond just their monetary support.

  7. […] A great new short study from our friends at bloomerang:  The Great $5 Donor Communications Experiment. […]

  8. […] the good folks at Bloomerang conducted an experiment to see how 50 randomly selected nonprofits in the Indianapolis-metro area responded to their […]

  9. […] conducted this experiment ourselves. Feel free to compare your results to […]

  10. […] 2014 Donor Communications Experiment by Bloomerang showed that while 96% of participating non-profits sent a donation receipt by email, only 34% sent […]

  11. Giving thanks | Aha! :: Elliance Blog November 18, 2015 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    […] a Bloomerang experiment, their team made a $5.00 donation to 50 individual nonprofits and kept attention on how […]

  12. […] answer to this question is: It depends. Bloomerang conducted an experiment to see how 50 randomly selected nonprofits in the Indianapolis-metro area responded to their […]

  13. […] Make sure you ask donors for their phone numbers on your response devices and donation pages! Bloomerang conducted an experiment to see how 50 randomly selected nonprofits in the Indianapolis-metro area responded to their […]

  14. […] send out an automatic email after a donation, but is that really that personable or thoughtful? The Great $5 Donor Communication Experiment, a study conducted by Bloomerang, found that only 96% of the organizations sent out an automatic […]

  15. […] donating to a charity and recording how quickly and by what method the donors is thanked, (e.g. Bloomerang’s ‘Great $5 Donor Communication Experiment’; or by telephoning a charity to try to make an ad hoc donation and recording how the charity […]

Leave A Comment