The sector’s mystery shopper, Stephen Mally, holds a mirror to Asia-Pacific not-for-profit organisations based on his most recent observations as a donor.

Mystery Shopper - Returned MailAs an independent mystery shopper of not-for-profits through my self-funded study, for the last four years I have been on the receiving end of the offline and online direct marketing practices of hundreds of organisations across the Asia-Pacific, coming from every communications channel. Here are my experiences of what it has been like to be a donor in the past 12 months.

Change of address not picked up

In April 2014 I relocated to Brisbane from Sydney. To date, not one charity in the study has performed a National Change of Address on their data file to capture my new address. I know this because I filed a mail redirection form with Australia Post, which I renewed twice to keep receiving forwarded mail.

I informed one charity about this fact without revealing that charity was part of the study and was told: “We don’t know you’ve moved unless you tell us.”

The difficulty with this is that you tend to let companies like your bank and utility suppliers know you have moved, not charities. So unless organisations match their database against the Australia Post PAF file and data sources, donors’ address changes (as well as deaths) are missed. With millions on the move each year, how many supporters are you losing this way?

I polled staff of 24 non-profit organisations, who didn’t know they were in the study, asking why they do not maintain data hygiene and data enhancement. They indicated data hygiene processes are “too hard”; impact is not appreciated by upper management, so there is no investment; and staff do not understand data hygiene so have difficulty communicating the need for it to management. None are solid reasons when agencies exist to help with this crucial area.

Name mispellings

Six health and cultural organisations in the study simply cannot get my surname right. Malley is a popular error. As reported previously, I have sent requests by post, phone and online, requesting this be fixed. Some still have incorrect records.

If a donor contacted you with this mistake, wouldn’t you take the time to correct your data? Misspelling a name, especially after having the problem called to your attention, may just cause a donor to lapse.

Lapsed – and ignored

I am a lapsed donor to organisations included in the study, especially to those from the study’s first year. A high 75% have not contacted me in more than a year – electronically or on paper. Not even in a lapsed segment or through an acquisition appeal. Is this because they were notified my Shelley St, Sydney address is no longer valid, or are they scaling back on costs and only mailing donors whose last gift falls in the 0-24 months range? Either way, in not communicating with me, through even cost-effective channels like e-mail, they are missing the good possibility that I might still want to give.

No ask after first gift

Two types of organisations seem to have accepted my first gift without question, but have never asked for a repeat gift.

No schools have asked me to renew and only one cultural institution has done so. Where schools have not kept up contact, at least cultural institutions have mailed various stewardship publications including information about exhibits, magazines, newsletters and membership appeals.

One head of fundraising at a private school suggested that since I am not part of the alumni body or a parent (past or current), there would be suspicion about my giving and I would not be mailed again. Clearly, this is not the most profitable way to fundraise.

No ask on response device or in a letter

Of the organisations that did send me a renewal appeal, 17% provided a self-addressed envelope but no response device in the pack. And 7% did not include an ask in the letter or on the response device, instead opting for a full letter telling their story and a response device with open prompts, not an ask ladder.

If you make it hard for donors to donate – or to work out what you want them to do – you can imagine what happens to income.

No ask in electronic direct mail (EDM)

A high 78% of the organisations in the study did not directly ask for a gift in their EDMs. There may have been a ’give now’ or ‘donation’ button, but no ask amount was mentioned until the donation button leading to the online giving form on the organisation’s website. Yes, delivery is electronic, but this is still direct marketing, so don’t ignore your basic principles.

Quality control on- and off-line

On seven occasions this year, I have received EDMs addressed to someone else, with the wrong salutation: ‘Dear Jeff’, ‘Dear John’, etc. Sixteen EDMs included dead links. Three mail pieces appeared to be missing an enclosure referenced in the letter. Neglect these details and your donors feel neglected too – and wonder what else your organisation is not doing thoroughly.

Regular gift and one-off ask on response device

Only 43% of all organisations across the study made a regular gift ask in addition to the one-off ask on their response devices. Of those that did, 5% simply requested an open amount for a regular gift. This is missing an easy opportunity for sustainable income.

About the mystery shopping project

Stephen Mally conducts this independent study as a service to the industry. It is based on his monitoring of the donor care and further solicitations he has received online, by post and phone, after making personal donations of $20 to cultural, education, environmental, health, international relief and medical research organisations. Now in its sixth phase, the study began in March 2011 and was first reported on in the April/May 2012 issue of F&P.

Stephen Mally CFRE is the director of FundraisingForce (@FRaisingForce), an Australian boutique fundraising consulting firm, which has just launched a mystery shopping product called NP Survey to provide the nonprofit sector with independent sampling, focused on pain-points being experienced. With over 25 years in the industry, Stephen’s unique insights have assisted organisations across the US, Asia-Pacific and Europe. E-mail him at [email protected]



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