NPT Podcast: Questionable Results Of ‘Thank You’ Calls

Do thank-you calls increased charitable giving? A recent study aimed to answer that question and apparently, it’s a no.

At least half of fundraisers and the public predicted that donors would give to charity again if they received a phone call thanking them for their donation. In reality, only 28 percent of donors gave again, a level that was consistent whether they received a thank-you phone call or not.

Anya Samek, an associate professor of economics at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, discusses the study, “Do Thank You Calls Increased Charitable Giving? Expert Forecasts and Field Experimental Evidence,” on the latest episode of Fresh Research, a podcast by The NonProfit Times. She co-authored the study with Chuck Longfield, longtime chief scientist at Blackbaud and past winner of the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s Max Hart Nonprofit Achieve Award.

“The fact that predictions were so far off the study results, it’s very important for charities to experiment, and it’s actually also very easy for charities to experiment,” Samek said. “So, in the case of the study we ran, these charities were already making thank-you calls to all of the new donors and we convinced the charities to save essentially 10 percent at random of the new donors coming in to just not receive a call,” she said.

Surveys included donors to 70 public television stations and one large national nonprofit. Some 600,000 donors and 500,000 thank-you calls over six years were examined. There was no effect on whether donors gave to the nonprofit again nor did it change the amount of their next donations, whether that was in the next year or in the next five years.

The thank-you calls, which did not include an explicit request for another gift, were made five to seven months after the first donation. They were timed to occur after new donors received gifts that may have been associated with their donation, and prior to any renewal window.

Listen to the full podcast here