The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
Recently the following post to one of the Charity Channel forums caught my eye:
We just completed a market survey and one of the things that came out of this is that donors who cannot give at leadership levels do not feel their gifts have any impact on the institution. We are starting to have some discussion on what we might do for those who give $25 to $1000. Currently under $500, the areas do not send acknowledgement letters so all this donor would receive is a receipt. We’ve talked about recognizing loyalty donors who have given faithfully year after year regardless of the annual amount. Also discussed recognizing cumulative gifts. Is anyone out there doing something in particular to recognize the lower level donors?
My jaw dropped.
Am I reading this correctly? This institution only deigns to thank donors who have given in excess of $500?
Granted, my work has been primarily with smaller nonprofit organizations – those with budgets under $2 to $3 million (often under $1 million!) – where an individual check in the amount of $250 was considered a larger donation.
Still, I confess to being rather appalled when I come across organizations with policies such as those noted above.
And recently, when working with a large, well-known Philadelphia consulting firm, I was shocked when one of their associates dismissed my concerns about stewardship slipping through the cracks with the remark that, in her experience, “donors are lucky if they get a postcard.”
When I send a check to an organization, be it a $15 check or a $1500 check, I expect to receive a thank you.
If I do not, well, as you can imagine, I won’t be sending any more money.
Has it ever occurred to the Charity Channel poster – or the powers that be of her institution – that “loyalty” donors often can and do constitute major givers?
After all, a donor who gives, in this institution’s estimation, a “mere” $250 every year, has given $2,500 after ten years? A donor who gives $1,000 every year for ten years, has given $10,000.
Good marketers know that it makes better sense to sell to existing customers than to create new customers.
Penelope Burk has reams of research about the critical importance of donor appreciation.
Even the Association of Fundraising Professionals notes, in their Donor Bill of Rights, that donors have the right “to receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition.”
So why would any organization not have a good donor acknowledgment plan in place?
Wouldn’t you think that if the institution noted above has the technology to generate a receipt, they have the technology to generate a simple thank you?
In every last development position that I have held, I have established strong donor acknowledgement programs. These procedures included welcome packages, personalized thank you letters (I do not believe in a thank you postcard – don’t even go there), thank you emails, and phone calls of appreciation.
I also like to put together a fairly random list every week of donors, both large and small, to phone and spend one to two hours a week talking with donors about the impact their gift will have. Who else can make thank you phone calls? Your CEO? Your board members?
Any effective individual giving program begins and ends with a prompt, gracious thank you.
Don’t cite budgetary reasons as your excuse for not thanking a donor.
There is no excuse.
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