Why send donor receipts right away? What’s the rush?

Among the problems a nonprofit might have, We’re getting so many donations we’re having trouble keeping up would have to be one you’d prefer over most.

That’s the problem a certain organization faced recently. They growing fast (because they had retained the services of TrueSense Marketing, thank you very much), and they were struggling to process and receipt all the donations quickly.

They wanted to know: Can you quantify the value of quick vs. slow receipting? Is sending receipts out within 24 hours better than sending it without 48 hours? Is two days better than two weeks? If it will cost us 20% more to cut the time in half, will it be worth the investment?

Interesting questions. And I don’t know the answers. I’ve never done or seen tests on the impact of receipt timing on subsequent giving. Who would run such a test?

But I do know these things:


  1. Sloppy organizations with slow receipting usually have very poor donor retention. (Of course, sloppy organizations usually have other problems as well, like haphazard fundraising, messy data, and a general inability to communicate clearly.)
  2. Recency is the most important predictor of likelihood to give. If a donor is stuck in processing mode for a month or two after giving, their most-likely-to-give period can easily pass without an opportunity to give a subsequent gift.
  3. One of the most common reasons donors give for stopping their support for a given charity is They didn’t need my gifts. Nothing signals Your gift doesn’t matter quite so loudly as taking a long time to acknowledge it.

None of that knowledge directly answers the question. It just tells us that quicker receipting is probably better than slower.

We kicked the question around for a while. Then one of my colleagues gave another reason for quick response to donors: Politeness.

You receipt as quickly as you possibly can for the same reason you sent Grandma thank you notes for giving you gifts: It’s the polite thing to do. That’s how you treat an important person like Grandma.

I’m sure if there were studies on such things, they’d show that kids who promptly write thank-you notes to their grandmothers do better at holidays and birthdays than the kids who don’t.

But that’s not why you do it. You do it because you love Grandma. She matters to you.

That’s also why you should acknowledge your donors as fast as you possibly can. If you’re doing some kind of math that basically asks How little can I get away with thanking my donors? then something’s wrong with your thinking. You don’t love them — and you’re probably going to make all kinds of response-crushing mistakes beyond taking forever to say thank you.

Tomorrow: Five more ways to love your donors.


Comments

6 responses to “Why send donor receipts right away? What’s the rush?”

  1. Another reason for quick responses — it sends the message that you’re a well-run, organized and efficient organization. And that is exactly the kind of nonprofit donors want to support.

  2. Another reason for quick responses — it sends the message that you’re a well-run, organized and efficient organization. And that is exactly the kind of nonprofit donors want to support.

  3. Totally agree. Such an important point. That’s why I blogged on What Would Miss Manners Say? not that long ago. http://clairification.blogspot.com/ We spend so much time thinking about asking; then we go astray with thanking. Not very thoughtful. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Totally agree. Such an important point. That’s why I blogged on What Would Miss Manners Say? not that long ago. http://clairification.blogspot.com/ We spend so much time thinking about asking; then we go astray with thanking. Not very thoughtful. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. What about automatic email acknowledgement? The nonprofit that I’m a board member of (Reading With Pictures) uses a CRM system called NEON (http://www.z2systems.com/en-US/) by Z2 Systems that generates a custom built donation letter / receipt.
    This is different than Network for Good as well because it comes from an email associated with our organization, has the look and feel of our website and brand, and has been customized to match our comic book themed language for literacy education. It also contains tokens that draw from the information they provided, so it’ll still refer to their name, the donation amount, the date, etc.
    The system also puts it into a queue for physical letter mailings, but what are people’s thoughts on automatically generated emails that still have customized information that keeps the branding? Is that the easy way out? And thoughts on follow up mailings if this strategy is employed?

  6. What about automatic email acknowledgement? The nonprofit that I’m a board member of (Reading With Pictures) uses a CRM system called NEON (http://www.z2systems.com/en-US/) by Z2 Systems that generates a custom built donation letter / receipt.
    This is different than Network for Good as well because it comes from an email associated with our organization, has the look and feel of our website and brand, and has been customized to match our comic book themed language for literacy education. It also contains tokens that draw from the information they provided, so it’ll still refer to their name, the donation amount, the date, etc.
    The system also puts it into a queue for physical letter mailings, but what are people’s thoughts on automatically generated emails that still have customized information that keeps the branding? Is that the easy way out? And thoughts on follow up mailings if this strategy is employed?

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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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