Case study: Thanking donors improved results

Organisation: Thistle Foundation
Campaign: Stewardship upgrade split test
Agency: Relationship Marketing

The Thistle Foundation provides support to people living with physical and learning disabilities in the east and west of Scotland.


Relationship Marketing carried out a split test campaign, which measures the results of different approaches across a number of groups. It wanted to establish whether a courtesy call to thank regular donors for their support so far, made in advance of a new fundraising telephone campaign, would result in more donors upgrading the amount they gave.

The test followed previous campaigns in which donors were called and told that they would receive a direct mail pack, but were not thanked for their support.

How it worked

A random sample of 2,000 regular monthly donors was targeted for the test. They were split into two groups: 1,000 received courtesy calls and the remaining 1,000 did not.

The call did not include a request for money. It was purely to report the work of the Thistle Foundation, tell the donor how their money had contributed and thank them for their continued support. The courtesy calls were made in October 2007 and followed up in February 2008 with a telephone campaign asking donors to upgrade their regular contributions.

Judging by typical results for pre-calling, Relationship Marketing expected 5 per cent more donors from the group that had received thank-you calls to upgrade their giving than from the other group. It also estimated that the charity would see a 25 per cent higher revenue upgrade from those who had received thank-you calls.


The study showed that 5.4 per cent more donors from the group that received the thank-you calls upgraded their giving than those who did not get thank-you calls.

The gross revenue received from the first group was also 41 per cent higher than that received from the second group. The overall net revenue for the Thistle Foundation in the first year after the upgrade was an extra £8,090.


Mike Naidu, head of donor marketing, Mencap

As a charity working with people with learning disabilities, the Thistle Foundation is a cause close to my heart. It aspires to provide the kind of modern, personalised services that people with learning disabilities should be receiving and too often miss out on.

The foundation's fundraising initiative is a simple but worthwhile test that should pay for itself fairly quickly. But I am not sure what it has to do with stewardship. Answers on a postcard to the agency.

It would be interesting to look at the impact on attrition rates after one and two years and any change in mail-based responses - especially when the extra income was based on a full 12 months of extra revenue. A total of 1,000 is a big sample, and perhaps some could have been pre-called two months before to test the public's memory - maybe wishing them happy Christmas from the foundation?

The other issue is about getting the maximum benefit from the first call. I would have looked for other cross-marketing opportunities, such as promoting other, free initiatives or the website, to get donors more involved with the charity's work.

Creativity: 2
Delivery: 4
6 out of 10

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