Rebec­ca Brown and Agnes Hol­l­i­day: mys­tery shop­ping tests for PBS and the Smith­son­ian Institution

Exhibited by
Maxine Delahunty
May 24, 2008
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Research & policy development
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

In 1994 and 1995 Ken Burnett organised a remarkable series of mystery shopping tests in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia as preparation of his book Friends for Life: Relationship Fundraising in Practice. His purpose was to find out if the generally low levels of customer service offered by fundraising organisations in the UK and Europe were matched by similar organisations in other countries. While the results were generally depressing they also produced flashes of individual brilliance and a long list of useful lessons. This exhibit features two highly instructive tests from the USA.

Creator / originator

Burnett Associates’ Ken Burnett, author of Relationship Fundraising and other books.

Summary / objectives

These tasks were each undertaken on behalf of large and fragmented fundraising organisations who just wanted to get an idea of levels of donor service within their far-flung constituents.


Ken Burnett had carried out similar tests in many other countries and for a range of different organisations.

Special characteristics

Though it had been anticipated that donor service would have been seen as a more important priority on the ‘other’ side of the Atlantic, these tests proved that this was not the case. At least, not back then...

Influence / impact

Through Ken’s book and subsequent seminars and articles these tests were brought to the attention of a large number of fundraisers around the world. How much attention was paid still, perhaps, remains to be seen.


Fundraisers should learn from this and from the related exhibits and pages.

See WNED’s postcard here.

See WDCN’s award-winning taped thank-you, here.

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Another lovely letter from a charming lady, laced with clues for the ‘on-the-ball’ relationship fundraiser.
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Rebecca’s letter, see exhibit 'Station WDCN, Nashville, USA – special ‘thank you’ to a donor’
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Results from the Agnes Holliday ‘mystery shopping’ donor service test. Extract with permission from Friends for Life, by Ken Burnett, © White Lion Press 1996.