April 25, 2019
Although Flooded with Appeals, Donors Tend to Read Them

July 26, 2018 — For nonprofits worried that their mailings and email solicitations to donors and prospects are not getting read, a recently completed study should allay their fears based on findings that despite complaints from charitable donors that they are inundated with such messages, recipients tend to pay attention to them.

On average, donors receive 17.7 messages from charities each week, 920 per year, or 2.5 every day just between mail and email (not including social media, text, advertising, or other forms of communication), according to the latest Donor Mindset Study conducted by Grey Matter Research and Opinions4Good.

Here's how it breaks out:
  • 3.6 pieces of mail come from organizations that donors support financially
  • 4.2 pieces of mail are from organizations they do not support financially
  • 4.2 emails from organizations they financially support
  • 5.7 emails from organizations they do not support financially
On average, donors estimate that 54% of the mail and 58% of the emails they receive from charities come from organizations they don’t support, the study found.

However, on average, about 78% of what donors receive from charities they financially support gets at least a little attention, along with about 58% from organizations they don’t support.

Few donors discard everything they get without reading it, the study found, with only 7% of donors acting this way for mail they receive from the organizations they support, and 25% of donors doing do this with all the prospecting mail they get.

The numbers for email were similar, but don’t take into consideration the emails donors never see because they’re caught in spam filters or sent to email addresses donors rarely or never check.

“In scores of studies we’ve done with individual organizations, donors often like to complain about the 'overwhelming’ amount of fundraising mail and email they get,” Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research. “But when we ask them to give thoughtful, numeric estimates of what they’re actually getting, a very different story emerges. They do receive quite a bit, but their physical and digital inboxes are not exactly overflowing. And most importantly, they’re not just tossing it all without reading it, so there’s relatively little actual waste to all these mailings and emails.”

He noted that the findings represent both good and bad news for charities.

“It’s good news because on average, there’s about a three-in-four chance your donors are reading what you send them, and about a six-in-ten chance that your prospects don’t just toss your stuff without a glance,” he said. “It’s bad news because, of course, they’re also seeing what everyone else sends, which means there’s a lot of noise for you to cut through."

Who gets the most communication from charities? According to the study:
  • People who identify with a religious group report receiving 24% more than atheists, agnostics, and those who have no religious identification
  • Men report receiving 26% more than women
  • Higher-income households ($70,000 or more annually) report receiving 30% more than lower-income households
  • Larger donors ($500 or more given in the past 12 months) report receiving 37% more than others
  • Political liberals report receiving 38% more than conservatives
  • Donors under age 50 report receiving 77% more than older donors

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