Cutting Through the Noise: How Much Mail and Email Donors Receive and Read

Posted by Op4G Staff on July 25, 2018

The average American charitable donor reports receiving about eight mailings and ten e-mails from non-profit organizations in a typical week.  A majority of these communications come from organizations they don’t financially support.

Consumer insights company Grey Matter Research and research panel Opinions4Good (Op4G) partnered on The Donor Mindset Study, a series of research reports about American charitable donors.  The latest in the series (The Donor Mindset Study VII:  Cutting through the Noise) explores how much mail and e-mail donors report receiving from charities, as well as what proportion they actually read (all or in part).



The weekly averages, as reported by donors, look like this: 

  • 6 pieces of mail from organizations they financially support
  • 2 pieces of mail from organizations they do not financially support
  • 2 e-mails from organizations they financially support
  • 7 e-mails from organizations they do not financially support

That’s a total of 17.7 messages from charities each week; 920 per year, or 2.5 every day just between mail and e-mail (not including social media, text, advertising, or other forms of communication). 

On average, donors estimate that 54% of the mail and 58% of the e-mails they receive from charities come from organizations they don’t support (commonly referred to as “prospecting”).

Who gets the most communication from charities?

  • 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) 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 a whopping 77% more than older donors

The study also asked donors to estimate how many mail and e-mail messages from charities they read each week – not necessarily the whole thing, but at least part.  It should be heartening to charitable organizations to learn that donors report reading quite a bit of the communication they get.  On average, about 78% of what they receive from charities they financially support gets at least a little attention, along with about 58% of prospecting communications. 


Few donors discard everything they get without reading it – only 7% do this with all the mail they receive from the organizations they support, and 25% do this with all the prospecting mail they get.  The numbers for e-mail are strikingly similar (of course, they don’t take into consideration the e-mails donors never see because they’re caught in spam filters or sent to e-mail addresses donors rarely or never check).

So the question is:  what’s going to make your communication something donors will read more of and maybe respond to, when they’re averaging 17 others that same week?” he asks.

The full report examines these donor perceptions in-depth.  It is available by contacting Op4G (

Click to Download Donor Mindset Study VII