Over the month of December, my parents received scores of appeals from a variety of organizations, national and local, big and small, asking them for their support. Some were from organizations that they had supported in the past, and some were from groups they had never had contact with before. Some came with free address labels with misspelled names or incorrect information, others offered “free” gifts in return for their support. I helped go through these many appeals, critiquing many, and then watched as my mother wrote out a couple dozen checks over those weeks. Since that time, my parents have received less than a handful of acknowledgements, and only one of those was personalized by addressing them by name. One I read today actually referred to them as “Dear Member.” As a fundraising professional, I have to admit that I am a bit disgusted.
As a fundraising professional, I know that we work hard when writing our appeals for support. We spend hours and hours, days and days, even weeks crafting the perfect appeal letter. We write, edit, rewrite and re-edit until we think it is perfect. We agonize over what paper to use and which font will bring us best the results. The appeals get mailed and hopefully they do what they are intended to do and money comes in over the next few weeks.
But, how many of us put that same effort into the thank you letters that SHOULD be going out as the gifts roll in? Many organizations fail to send out simple acknowledgements, let alone thank you letters. Many of those that do send thank you letters cannot even take the time to address an individual or couple by name in the salutation. “Dear member?” How impersonal can a letter be?
Most donors, myself included, cannot remember much about that appeal letter you sent us, but we do remember the well crafted and personal thank you letters we receive telling us how important our support of the organization is. We remember the organizations that continue to thank us over the following months every time they correspond with us, whether by newsletter or email telling us how our donation is used, or on an invitation to an event. We feel a real kinship with the organization when a Board member calls out of the blue just to thank us for our support. Those organizations are the ones we feel a partnership with, and those are the ones we will continue to support year after year after year.
As fundraisers, we are professional “askers”, but if we are truly donor-centered and concerned with making lifelong partnerships with our supporters, we should be professional “thankers”.
There is an old fundraising adage I am fond of using. “You can ask too often, but you can never thank enough.” I wish more people in the fundraising field kept that in mind.