Study says don’t bother with donor thank-you calls

Yikes! Calling donors to thank them has no impact on subsequent giving?

That’s what a recent very large study found (abstract here), as reported by Change Fundraising at Thank You Calls Are Pointless. Wait … What?

Seriously, that’s what the study found. It involved hundreds of thousands of calls.

Does this tell us that thanking donors is a big waste of time and money?

That’s not what I’ve experienced. In my experience, making thank you calls to donors has had a meaningful positive impact on subsequent giving. Many other experienced fundraisers will tell you the same.

But few of us (probably none of us) have ever done a study anywhere near this big. Are we all wet?

Maybe not. There are a couple of things important to pay attention to in this study, as Change Fundraising points out:

  1. The calls were made 3-7 months after the initial donation. This alone is enough reason to be very skeptical of the study. In my experience, thanking that’s that delayed is pretty much the same as not thanking.
  2. The call script isn’t very good (“Wetter than a sack of drunk otters,” says Simon.) Quality does matter. Any time you do a poor job of something, you’re likely to get poor results, no matter how smart that activity is.

Bottomline for me: Thanking donors is probably a smart thing to do for most of us, most of the time. A study like this is a useful reminder to be skeptical about received wisdom. Sometimes it’s wrong! But I don’t it is in this case.


Comments

4 responses to “Study says don’t bother with donor thank-you calls”

  1. Hey Jeff – Quick case study of one to compare against this study. In 2018 we ran a thank you call program for one large client. We found that when donors were called within 30 days of their gift, their value (per donor) increased by nearly $100 in the subsequent 90-day period (compared to the control group that didn’t get called).

  2. Hey Jeff – Quick case study of one to compare against this study. In 2018 we ran a thank you call program for one large client. We found that when donors were called within 30 days of their gift, their value (per donor) increased by nearly $100 in the subsequent 90-day period (compared to the control group that didn’t get called).

  3. Amen Andrew and Jeff! As you and Andrew pointed out, timeliness is key. I’ve run multiple tests from 3-month out to 27-months and the giving frequency, total giving and retention are all positively impacted. One other key issue I had with the study – they used Public Television with premium offers as their test group. Unlike most charitable causes the donors to Public TV are also beneficiaries of the service the charity provides. It is irresponsible to use language that broadcast results with such a broad brush when the actual findings are quite narrow.

  4. Amen Andrew and Jeff! As you and Andrew pointed out, timeliness is key. I’ve run multiple tests from 3-month out to 27-months and the giving frequency, total giving and retention are all positively impacted. One other key issue I had with the study – they used Public Television with premium offers as their test group. Unlike most charitable causes the donors to Public TV are also beneficiaries of the service the charity provides. It is irresponsible to use language that broadcast results with such a broad brush when the actual findings are quite narrow.

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog