Weak acknowledgements can drive away donors

I have an unprovable theory that one of the reasons direct mail response rates have been dropping across the board for several years is that dreadful common ways many nonprofits acknowledge donors.

These bad actors (and there are a lot of them) have trained the giving public that giving is unrewarding. Not a connection with the causes they’re passionate about. They do so by not giving back when donors give.

Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog notes that at It’s not what your donors give you, it’s what you give them:

It is a very personal, emotional choice to give away money to something you care about. You as the organization these donors support want to handle those strong feelings of your donor with care. They have acted in a way that is deeply meaningful to them. If the only way we react to their gift is with a tax receipt, we’re not only being rude, we’re being disrespectful.

Not only is the choice to give emotional, in many cases it also represents a real risk by the donor. There have been enough charity scandals and scams that many people are afraid their gifts will be squandered, misused, or outright stolen.

It’s not easy to be a donor! That’s why these very common acknowledgement practices are so harmful to donor relationships:


  • Taking a long time to acknowledge a gift. When weeks or months go by before a donor gets acknowledged for a gift, the suspicion grows that her gift wasn’t appreciated or didn’t matter.
  • Acknowledging in a generic way. The ask was clear and strong, specific and full of emotion. The acknowledgement has the warmth and humanity of a tax form from a totalitarian nation. The message is clear: We got your dough; that’s all that matters.
  • Failing to adequately report back on the impact of the gift. If you’re putting donor dollars to good use, let the donors know. Don’t hammer them with all the other things you do that they didn’t give to — thank them for what they did. Show them they made a difference. That gives them reason to give again.


Comments

6 responses to “Weak acknowledgements can drive away donors”

  1. I completely agree Jeff! When a donor gets treated like royalty with a prompt, personalized, and sincere thank you, it leaves a warm feeling that won’t be soon forgotten. I would bet that before long, they’ll be giving more to that charity, and less to another that was just “too busy” to act.

  2. I completely agree Jeff! When a donor gets treated like royalty with a prompt, personalized, and sincere thank you, it leaves a warm feeling that won’t be soon forgotten. I would bet that before long, they’ll be giving more to that charity, and less to another that was just “too busy” to act.

  3. Yes!
    Thank you!
    The most meaningful thing, if you can spare the time, is a personal phonecall.
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  4. Yes!
    Thank you!
    The most meaningful thing, if you can spare the time, is a personal phonecall.
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  5. You can never thank a donor too many times. I recommend a minimum of three “touches,” (including the personal phone call) and have written about this in depth – both in my report, “Creating Lifetime Donors” (http://www.simpledevelopmentsystems.com/) and in a number of articles on my site, including http://www.pamelasgrantwritingblog.com/72/the-two-most-important-words-thank-you/

  6. You can never thank a donor too many times. I recommend a minimum of three “touches,” (including the personal phone call) and have written about this in depth – both in my report, “Creating Lifetime Donors” (http://www.simpledevelopmentsystems.com/) and in a number of articles on my site, including http://www.pamelasgrantwritingblog.com/72/the-two-most-important-words-thank-you/

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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