Media release haiti mystery shopping june 2010 v4 jg
11 June 2010
A look at how disaster organizations responded to donors in the wake of the
Global fundraising agencies Pareto Fundraising, Pell & Bales and The Fundraising Company have
released the key findings from their most recent charity ‘mystery shopping’ exercise. The study,
conducted from the end of January through to the end of April 2010, looked at the
performance of several organizations fundraising for the Haiti emergency disaster in 5 different
countries, and specifically how they responded following donations made online.
What we did
On the back of the tragedy that struck Haiti in January, 2010 Pareto Fundraising, Pell & Bales
and The Fundraising Company decided to look at how charities were responding to donors who
made donations in the wake of the disaster.
Here’s what we did:
Made an online gift around two weeks after the Haiti disaster. The gift made was for the
equivalent of $25 USD, to 52 organizations in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and
Spain. A full list of those organizations that we ‘mystery shopped’ can be found at the
end of this document.
Sat back and watched what happened after the donation was made. We monitored the
organizations subsequent efforts for the next two months (up till the end of April).
Analyzed the results, based on five key criteria:
1. Initial contact experience. What was the experience like as a donor making the
donation? Did the charity actually take our money?
2. Response time. Did we hear back from the charity the same day the gift was
3. Value of the ‘thank you’. Was it personal? Were we actually thanked ’? Was a
story shared? Were we provided with links to up to date information?
4. How proactive the organization was. Was information shared about how our gift
would make a difference? Was regular/monthly giving promoted initially and
throughout the period?
5. The follow up. Was there ongoing feedback and updates? Were we asked for
subsequent donations, and if so were we asked to consider a regular/monthly
What we found
Overall, the initial response to our gifts was very good. Most organizations responded to our
donation immediately and were genuinely thankful for the donation made. However there
were a few organizations that never actually took our money despite the fact that we gave
them our credit card details. It was also supprising to see the variation in response from some
of the International NGO’s who fundrasise in more then one country.
Whilst the ongoing frequency of communications was regular, and the feedback detailed, the
element most often missing was the link to individual stories and how our donation was having
a direct impact. Most of the feedback was operationally focused. There were however one or
two really great examples of charities using some new techniques to engage with and provide
upto date first hand information on the situation on the ground in Haiti.
We were asked for another financial contribution several times by some organizations in the
subsequent two months, although the huge area of opportunity moving forward definitely lies
within regular/monthly giving. Very few asked us to consider changing the way we support and
commence an ongoing, monthly gift and out of 52 separate organizations we were only called
by 5 to convert our cash support into a long-term monthly gift
Below are some of the key insights. It is worth noting that the results were analyzed up until the
end of April, and therefore some organizations may have subsequently engaged in the follow up
activity referred to below from May onwards.
83% of charities responded to our donation the same day (with an email confirmation).
In the US, Canada and Australia the response came on the same day in 100% of
occasions. In the UK 85% of the time, whereas only 30% of Spanish charities responded
the same day of the gift. However it is worth noting that 4 of the 10 charities in Spain did
not actually process our credit card donation, at all.
Of all charities that processed our donation (92%), all but three said the words ‘thank
you’ within the email received after making the gift. However 10 organizations did not
personalize the thank you email (I.e. it did not reference our name personally in the
salutation or the body of the email).
Only 29% of charities initially promoted regular/monthly giving. The highest of the
countries was the US where 55% of charities mystery shopped asked for an ongoing
commitment, the lowest in Australia where none of the organizations pushed this type
In the follow up activity, after our first gift, 21% of organizations used vehicles other
than email to communicate with us. Of the 52 charities we surveyed, only 2 (both in the
UK) used a combination of email, mail and telephone to keep in touch and communicate
with us. 31% of charities across the countries did not reach out to us at all after the
initial thank you process.
What we’d recommend
Below we’ve provided some recommendations for organizations responding to disasters,
related to both the initial period after a disaster, and in the weeks and months following.
• Charities need to ensure that initial donations receive a speedy response either by auto
response or within a short space of time (response in hours, not days).
• Initial responses should be personalized and should contain the words ’thank you’.
• When landing on a charities website, the disaster should be prominently displayed, with
its own separate landing page. All email communications should provide a link straight
to that landing page (or micro site).
• If the organization is strategically focusing on regular/monthly gifts, the initial response
should promote this and keep it singularly focused.
• Subsequent communications need to be relevant and timely, providing useful and
important updates and information demonstrating the impact the donor’s money is
having on the ground. That means telling real, human stories.
• Real feedback from the field should be provided on a regular basis, in a coherent
manner. We should foster opportunities for deeper engagement and understanding of
the issues at hand.
• Stand out from the crowd. Some of the best examples from this exercise on how to
feedback involved inviting donors to teleconferences and webinars to share stories from
Conversion to Regular or Monthly giving
• Charities should develop and execute a follow up communication plan as part of an
integrated strategy to convert onetime cash supporters onto regular/monthly giving.
• All communications should focus on capturing details to make conversion to monthly
giving easier e.g. Name, address, phone number and email. Offer opt outs rather than
opt in to follow up contact.
• Constant reinforcement in all communications of the importance and need for
regular/monthly giving (linked to the need for long term, sustainable support to the
• Develop integrated channel plan for conversion to monthly giving including email
promotion/reinforcement, telephone conversion and mail mop up activity.
• Aim to make direct approach to conversion onto regular/monthly giving within 2
months of first cash gift. Speed is key. We know that 2 months is better than 4 months,
and so on.
• Evaluate the impact of developing a specific regular/monthly giving product for the
emergency situation (I.e. sign up for 365 days) along with a well thought out plan for
future relationship management and donor care.
• Once signed up to a regular/monthly gift, focus on the honeymoon period: the first 30
days after sign up. This is critical to arresting attrition.
Long term Strategy
• Develop a plan for communicating with non-responders to your regular or monthly
giving conversion efforts. Consider how to feed these individuals into the ongoing cash
program and look at ways to engage with non financial support. Test using as a prospect
file for future conversion activity.
• Ensure your organization is well equipped to for the next emergency response. For
example, mail and email templates in place, thanking and conversion process agreed.
For more information on how to implement an effective emergency response plan please
contact Jonathon Grapsas at email@example.com, or Karl Holweger at
Charities mystery shopped
British Red Cross
Christian Aid UK
Médecins Sans Frontières UK
Save the Children UK
World Vision UK
American Red Cross
Food for the Poor
Médecins Sans Frontières USA
Save the ChildrenUSA
World Food Program
World Vision USA
Médecins Sans Frontières Spain
Médicos del Mundo
Save the Children Spain
Australian Red Cross
Médecins Sans Frontières Australia
Save the Children Australia
World Vision Australia
Canadian Feed The Children
Canadian Red Cross
Free the Children
Médecins Sans Frontières Canada
Save the Children Canada
World Vision Canada