Too big to succeed?
My family recently made what was for us a large gift to a national charity.
The response was underwhelming, and that’s being kind. An 8.5 x 14 sheet of paper, with the bottom being a tear-off, generic response form. The thank you letter – such as it was – consisted of 4 short paragraphs. Two of them mentioned us – or to be more specific, our gift.
Then in response to another significant-for-us gift to an organization we’ve had ties to for decades, we received a receipt and a small postcard (not personalized).
Opening both with sadness and disgust, I thought of smaller organizations that I’ve written thank you letters for. Whether the gift was $3 or $3,000, the donor received the heartfelt thanks they deserved. And it cost us nothing more to thank the $3 donor as well as the larger dollar donor.
So why can’t a large organization with lots of staff take the few minutes to write a thank you letter that feels even a little sincere?
Donors deserve better
Yes, they do. All of them. Any of them.
After I opened the mail, I went back to my office. I hopped on the stationary bike, hoping to work off some of my annoyance.
That didn’t work, so I’m writing you. Though if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know how I feel about thank you letters.
They matter. Because donors – all donors – matter.
It’s just plain polite. And you can take the few minutes and bit of human feeling it takes to write one that touches your donors’ hearts. If it feels like a burden, then may I suggest you might be in the wrong line of work?
Your mission deserves better
When a long-time donor suddenly gives well above their usual gift, you should take notice. Every time you chose not to notice and let your donor know you noticed, you’re missing an opportunity to grow.
Do you have a plan in place for donors like this? Are you prepared to move them along to a different category of communication? Do you know when they should be responded to personally?
All of this deserves careful thought. And if a donor’s gift doesn’t qualify for attention from a major gifts officer, are you just dumping the donor back in the uninspiring communications pool?
(Note: there should be NO uninspiring communications pool.)
None of it needs to be uninspiring
The point is, whatever the donation amount, your donors deserve a little care. It’s not hard to write a warm thank you letter. But it does mean you need to let the feels rule for a bit. And when you put the care into thank you letters as well as your other donor communications, you’ll see donors respond.
Keep in mind that donors’ connection to your organization, your mission, is emotional. Don’t leave them out in the cold. You don’t have to shower every donor with personal attention. But the attention you do offer should be warm and personal.
The good news is that warm and personal can easily scale. So there’s no excuse for taking any donor for granted.