Episode 23: Do Thank You Calls Increase Charitable Giving?

Thanking donors for their gifts may be the right thing to do but does it lead to more gifts or bigger donations in the future? A thank you call to a donor for their gift may be just polite and considered the right thing to do but a recent study suggests that they won’t impact your nonprofit’s bottom line.

donor thank you callsAnya Samek is associate professor of economics at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences who studies the effectiveness of fundraising practices. She co-authored the study, “Do Thank-You Calls Increase Charitable Giving? Expert Forecasts and Field Experimental Evidence,” with the recently retired Chuck Longfield, longtime data scientist at Blackbaud.

The study looked at 600,000 donors and a half-million thank-you calls over six years and found that thank-you calls had no effect on whether donors gave to the organization again nor did it change the amount of their next donation, whether in the next year or the next five years.

Both fundraisers (52 percent) and the public (51 percent) predicted that donors would give to a charity again if they received a phone call thanking them for their donation. In reality, only about a third of donors (28 percent) gave again, and the proportion was consistent whether the donors received a thank you call or not. For the national nonprofit, the percentage was higher (31 percent) but remained consistent regardless of thank you calls. The size of a future gift did not change based on whether a donor was thanked or not. The follow-up call did not include a request for another gift.

The surveys included donors to 70 public television stations and one large national nonprofit. Calls were made between five and seven months after the first donation. They were timed to occur after new donors received any gifts associated with their donation and prior to any renewal window.