It’s the end of the year.
Organizations are mailing and emailing and phoning their supporter – and those they hope will become supporters.
Finance staff are hovering over fundraising staff as envelopes are opened.
Everyone is a little keyed up.
But where is the love?
There’s been something of an ongoing conversation about donor thanks and stewardship happening on Twitter. It crosses multiple threads. But the gist is:
Donors deserve great thanks when they make a gift.
Donors should support the mission and not get huffy about poor thanks. We’re busy!
If you’ve been reading the blog for any amount of time or following this conversation in its many iterations on Twitter, you probably know where I stand. But let’s look at it in more depth.
Donors deserve great thanks
If we think of fundraising as getting money out of people, then the follow up might seem immaterial. Maybe even a waste of valuable staff time.
The mission is all, and donors ought to know staff is busy and be happy with a receipt, or a less than gracious thank you letter.
On one hand, this horrifies me, because it’s just rude.
When you receive a holiday gift, do you just take it and move on?
But what really frustrates me is how short-sighted it is. Want a practical reason to pay attention to stewardship? Donor retention.
When 60% of donors only give once and move on, there’s a big problem. If you’re concerned with good use of your time, then skipping gracious stewardship is a huge waste.
If your donors give again, if they become attached to your cause, if they then decide to offer more support? You will spend less time renewing those gifts than you do trying to acquire new donors.
This is all about relationships. And if you don’t give as well as receive, it’s quite natural that donors will move on. They are looking for something out of this as well. And they deserve to get it.
- They deserve to know their gift was received.
- They deserve to know their gift will be put to good use.
- They deserve to know they did a very good thing.
- They deserve to know how they are helping your mission.
- They deserve to know they are kind, generous people.
- They deserve the full measure of emotional satisfaction for their generosity.
Too small or too busy to say thanks?
If you have the time to ask, you have the time to thank. It’s that simple. And if you’re a solo fundraiser and feeling stressed, then it’s also up to you to make this point to your boss and your board.
Here’s one time-saver: write the thank you letter as you write the appeal copy. You’ll be in the right place, emotionally, at that moment. Don’t stress over it – imagine you’re speaking to a donor in person and saying thank you. Just write it.
Find and use systems. This can be a good donor management system. It can also be a list of things that need to be done. When you insist that thank you letters are printed as gifts are entered, it becomes part of the daily rhythm.
Love your mission, but guard against a superiority complex.
Donors owe you nothing. Absolutely nothing. This is not a transaction. This is a gift from the heart. And they have every right to go where they feel respected.
No matter how critical your mission is, donors who raise their hand and offer their money are now your partners. They are not a chore.
Thinking otherwise is a dangerous mindset for a fundraiser. Really, for anyone at a nonprofit organization. And those negative thoughts will eat at you.
Not practicing good donor love is cheating you as well as your mission.
If you are not practicing gratitude, you are missing out. Not just your organization. The most wonderful thing about our work as fundraisers is that great feelings are not limited. Share them and they grow.
With their gifts, donors are thanking your organization for work that means something to them. When you reflect that back? It bounces back to you, as well.
And though you’re worn thin right now, you deserve to share those good feelings.
Share the love this season and all year long
Don’t cheat yourself. Don’t cheat your organization. Don’t cheat your donors. Make gratitude an important part of your practice.
The more you give, the more you’ll have.
Or as my friend Pamela tweeted, with a little help from Lennon and McCartney:
And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make— P̲a̲m̲e̲l̲a̲ ̲G̲r̲o̲w̲ (@PamelaGrow) December 9, 2019