Online donors have letter boxes too

November 29 2011 - Mark Phillips

Here's another couple of charts that Damian O'Broin from Ask Direct and I shared at IOF London on our international mystery shopping exercise.

It gives a few more insights in to how charities are integrating email and postal communications.

One of our most surprising findings was that relatively few of the charities we surveyed put a thank you letter in the post in response to an online gift.

Just 5% of British charities did. American charities came next at a little over 20%. Canadians were better at 40%, whilst Australian charities provided over half of online donors with a 'real' thank you.

And when it came to subsequent appeals, things weren't much better.

As you'll see from this chart (showing results just from the UK), emails were often flying thick and fast – though not in all cases. But what surprised me most was that many charities didn't send out any postal appeals in the six to seven months following receipt of an online gift (purple columns).

Screen shot 2011-11-29 at 10.08.56

A number of people questioned this point in our session, asking whether it was appropriate to mail someone who had chosen to given online. And luckily we included a few recent studies on online giving that surprised a few people and demonstrated, once again, that DM is still alive and kicking.

The first is a piece of US research from last year that found that 14% of online donors gave an online donation in response to a mailing pack, whereas just 6% gave in response to an email.

And when it comes to preference, you'll see below that over a third of those surveyed were happiest using a charity website to give to DM appeals.

Screen shot 2011-11-29 at 09.52.00

TNT found UK donors had similar attitudes in a study they also undertook in 2010. You can read more on this survey here.

I'll ensure that we have the complete presentation of the mystery shopping survey up soon.

  • Thank you for this post, Mark. It’s high time someone talked about the sad state of thanking donors via direct mail for online gifts… and the ensuing communications blackout after their first gift.

    Last year I interviewed over a dozen execs at large US nonprofits who virtually all said the same thing: 1.) direct mail is very much alive and 2.) to retain donors who first give online, you need to get them into your direct mail stream.

    One last thing: a beloved client of mine, Merchants Quay Ireland in Dublin, does this (and more) precisely right. MQI send a hand-signed thank you letter for every online donation. Shortly thereafter, these donors begin to receive MQI’s direct mail appeals and donor newsletters. The Head of Fundraising there is a US expat direct mail genius named Denisa Casement (who, like me, loves queer ideas, and gave me permission to tell you so).

    Thanks again, Mark. Keep ’em coming. Bravo. 🙂 Lisa Sargent

  • Hi Mark,

    Are the mystery shopping slides up online anywhere? I remember you saying they were going to be up on slideshare or somewhere similar.

    We’re just reviewing our welcome processes, and I remember from the IoF London presentation that there was a lot of useful food for thought in there.