Tests run by DonorsChoose.org with Gates Foundation funding

Support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation enabled DonorsChoose.org to run a series of match o er experiments during the December holiday season. Our goal was to generate insights that any nonprofit could apply to their own match offers. Below are results from three of those experiments. 

Test 1: Impact of the Gates Foundation Brand 

On December 2, 2015, we randomly assigned 60,000+ donors to receive one of two nearly identical emails promoting a match offer. The only difference: the first email attributed the match to the Gates Foundation, and the second made no such mention of the Gates Foundation. 

The Result

Emails that mentioned the Gates Foundation converted 43% better than our control (at 100% significance).

Test 2: Impact of the Gates Foundation Brand: Confirmed

To confirm our initial finding regarding the power
 of the Gates name in eliciting donations, from December 22-23 we ran a test in which visitors to the DonorsChoose.org website were shown one of three displays: our regular website, a banner highlighting a match code, or a banner highlighting a match code sponsored by the Gates Foundation. 

The Result

Donors who saw the banner highlighting the support of the Gates Foundation converted 19% better than our control, and were additionally much more likely to actually enter the “magic code” that unlocked the match. 

Test 3: The Power of #GivingTuesday, Philanthopy's Holiday

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and now...#GivingTuesday. To test the giving spirit of the philanthropic world’s favorite holiday, we sent identical emails offering a match code to two populations of donors on Tuesday, December 1 (#GivingTuesday) and Wednesday, December 2 (a regular day). The #GivingTuesday email converted 18% better than the identical email sent the next day. 

One factor that did not seem to motivate extra giving was the inclusion of the phrase “Giving Tuesday.” On Tuesday December 1, we sent one email explicitly mentioning Giving Tuesday and a second that made no such mention. The email without a mention of Giving Tuesday had a slightly higher open rate than the same email without such a mention.

Takeaways: Admired Names Matter, and the #GivingTuesday Spirit is Real

Two primary lessons that we will share with peer organizations are:

When it comes to education giving, the Gates Foundation name is
 an incredibly powerful tool that motivates donors to give, and to give more generously.

On #GivingTuesday, donors are singularly eager to give if provided with a nutritious opportunity such as a matched gift.

Additional areas for charitable organization research:

  1. Does the Gates Foundation brand name have a similar effect on donations recruited for causes outside of the Foundation’s two main focus areas of education and health?
  2. Are there other holidays on which donors are especially generous, such as Teacher Appreciation Week or Veterans Day?
  3. Would donors be even more likely to contribute in larger amounts with a more generous match o er, such as tripled donations?