If you would like to be sent a thank you, please tick this box

Published by Damian Chapman on

When did thank you become so difficult?

For years, the top 250 charities in the UK have been receiving over 90% of donations made, and yet donor attrition rates are holding steady between 15 and 35 per cent annually.

thankyouTo combat this, they have developed more and more ways to say thank you, to create ‘touch points’ with their donors, to explain what £3 a month could do — but they should take the lead from some of their small charity cousins who, instead of a donor development strategy and a ‘contact chart’ simply respond back with a simple but heartfelt “THANK YOU so much for your donation, with it we can keep doing good work on your behalf.”

In a world where everything is digital, and the cost of online giving is far less than any other medium, it comes as no surprise that charities are promoting this more and more — but with automated rules and scripts that generate an automatic thank you on screen and follow with an automated thank you email. Where is the personal touch? Are we ready to hand over donor recognition to the auto-rule?

I was researching one the UK’s large NGO’s recently and found, to my horror, that if you donate offline (i.e. not through the internet CRM portal), they do not routinely say thank you. They even have a box on the accompanying form saying, “if you would like to be sent a thank you, please tick this box.” I partially understand why they do it. One is cost: with the price of a 2nd class stamp ever creeping up it is fast becoming an expensive way to acknowledge a gift; the other is to put control in the hands of the donor how much mail they receive from us in the future. The reality is that neither of these are acceptable reasons not to respond to an offline donation, particularly one who has taken the time to tell you who they are.

Small charities deal with smaller volumes of donations… fact. But, when it comes to recognising that donation, there are a few tips that we can all pick up on:

  1. Remember that a donor doesn’t care how big you are when they make a donation, they are doing it because they have been motivated to do so by something
  2. Respond to the donor using the medium they contact you with
  3. Remember that when forming your thank you, that is exactly what you should do: say THANK YOU
  4. Don’t automatically press print on a standard 3-page thank you letter outlining future investment, ROI’s and impact measurement
  5. Cards are better to do it on —  it’s something that the donor can put on a mantelpiece and be proud of… and more importantly, they are 3 times more likely to share it with their friends than a letter.

Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Damian Chapman

Fundraising for over ten years, Damian Chapman is an upcoming fundraiser with a passion for technology, innovation and person centred fundraising. Currently Head of Fundraising for Envision, Damian also lectures at various conferences and events.


Sarah · July 25, 2013 at 15:15

Great points Damian. The power of “thank you” is immeasurable!

Leslie G · July 25, 2013 at 16:23

Really interesting article, Damian. I’ve always stressed the importance of pleases and thank yous in fundraising. May I ask where you found the statistics about a card being three times more likely to be shared as a letter? This is a powerful stat and I’d like to use it with decision-makers in my organisation. Thanks!

    Damian · July 25, 2013 at 23:13

    It came from one of the sessions at National Convention – I will try and find the cited source for you.

Andy Adams · July 25, 2013 at 19:11

This advice applies beyond just charities – it applies equally well to businesses. Thanking your donor or customer in a personal way is so often overlooked and is seen as too expensive, too difficult to do at scale. Au contraire – I’d say it costs too much to *not* send thank yous in many scenarios.

One addition: Point #2 “Respond to the donor using the medium they contact you with” is good, but I’d say if you have the ability to go *beyond* the medium they contacted you with, you should. If they sent an online donation, but you have their mailing address, you should write them a personal note, if possible. Nothing says “warm and fuzzy” like a handwritten thank you :).

Mena Gainpaulsingh · July 25, 2013 at 23:32

THANK YOU for this great article Damian!

Gemma · August 1, 2013 at 10:14

Hi Damian. This is a really interesting article. However, not working in fundraising and just being a donor, I would contend against your point that we all want ‘thank-yous’. I really, really don’t. I would much rather my donation was spent on the charity’s beneficiaries and I really appreciate the opt-out clause for thank yous. I don’t want the mail – and I have to admit that any communication that comes through my donor from a charity I support goes straight in the bin un-opened.

I don’t think I’m alone – several colleagues agree.

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