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Why Are Nonprofits So Terrible At Acknowledging Gifts?

The harsh reality is that most of us in the nonprofit sector are not very good at making donors feel special through the gift acknowledgement process.

Do you think your organization is the exception? If so, you can conduct a game-changing experiment, one with potential results so stunning that your mindset toward internal processes for communications will be changed forever

Do we have your attention yet?

The simple experiment defined

You or a member of your staff can make a $5-to-$15 donation to 20 or so local and national charities via the mail or online. Make sure and include your own nonprofit WITHOUT telling anyone. The total of your investment will be $100 to $300, plus your time to make the donation and evaluate the results, but - believe me - it will be well worth it!

Over the next 120 days, dutifully record every single piece of follow up communications of any nature from each donation made. This should include the elapsed time in minutes or hours or days from the time the donation was made. Note the format and content of each letter, email, social media update and phone call.

Will the results surprise you and your team?

My educated guess is a resounding yes!


First of all, the vast difference in time, effort and quality of the responses will most likely astound you. Keep in mind it is fully OK to borrow a few of the ideas and concepts that astound or even just pleasantly surprise you.

Secondly, you will happily or sadly, see how your organization compared to the rest.

Compare your results to mine

We conducted this experiment ourselves. Feel free to compare your results to ours.


How close did our results come to yours?

Was your own organization above, below or on par with its follow-up communications when compared to our research?

Perhaps several of you will be brave enough to share how your organization did or how your overall experiment fared in the comment area at the end of this post.

Why do the results matter?

I stated in my previous Guidestar blog post, the key to donor retention is obtaining the second gift from any brand new donor.

As the chart below from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project outlines, the rate of retention improves from a ghastly 22.9% to a truly respectable 60.8% once the second gift is secured:


Such facts do not lie and can make such an impact on your fundraising success!

Most of you are already way ahead me in connecting the dots. How you acknowledge a first-time gift is absolutely critical!

I wish you the best of luck in utilizing the results of your experiment!

Jay Love, Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomerang

The preceding is a guest post by Jay Love, Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomerang, which helps nonprofit organizations to reach, engage, and retain the advocates they depend on to achieve their vision for a better world. A veteran of the nonprofit technology sector, Jay is a founding member of the AFP Business Member Council and chair of the AFP Ethics Committee.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice