This Month — A Brandraising Twofer
Part 1: Start donor relationships off right with prompt, polite thank-you notes. Part 2: Start priming for end-of-year appeals.October 2010 By Sarah Durham
Did your parents make you write thank-you notes for every gift you got when you were a kid? Mine certainly did. (I remember bitterly using the last of my favorite note cards to thank a relative for the pink "ballet is on point!" T-shirt I got as a birthday gift during the height of my punk-rock adolescence. It was, frankly, heartbreaking.)
I also was taught to send thank-you notes after informational or job interviews, for professional referrals, or for just about anything else. The point was to let people know I appreciated the effort they'd made on my behalf.
Fundraising is, first and foremost, about relationships — and many of the basic tenets of good manners apply. Unfortunately, we often forgo the niceties of relationship-building in order to get through all of the day-to-day work that piles up. But thank-you notes? I have yet to meet a nonprofit that can afford to neglect them.
In her new book, "The Nonprofit Marketing Guide" (Jossey-Bass, 2010), author Kivi Leroux Miller describes an experiment in which she sent $25 donations to 16 nonprofits. The results are shocking. Of the 12 national organizations she gave to, only four acknowledged that she gave a gift. The three regional organizations had the same percentage — one of three recognized the gift. It took two weeks to hear back from one organization, and another's only acknowledgment of the gift was to sign her up for its newsletter.
I've had similar experiences: Most recently, the death of an extended family member prompted me to make a donation in his memory to an organization he valued. I never got a thank-you note from the nonprofit — and I'll probably never give to it again as a result. How can it build a relationship with me without first acknowledging my gift?
The thank-you note is the first chance your organization gets to steward a new donor relationship. It implicitly acknowledges that the donor had a choice to give or not to give, and continues to have that choice in the future. It also tells her how much of her gift is tax-deductible by law.