An example of greatness in donor appreciation and recognition

Published by Reinier Spruit on

Last week Jeff Brooks reminded his readers how to write an effective thank you to your excellent donors. In order to “thank your donors so they really feel thanked” you need to know the following three things about your donor:

Who is the Donor? (Show that you know who they are and what they did.)
Which Campaign or Program Did They Give to? (Thank them for the specific thing they gave to. Finish the story you started when you asked.)
How Will You Turn Their Gift Into Impact? (Make it clear: Their money is doing something great!)

He echoed the message from the Contant Contact Blog, and I want to echo it again, and add a great example that I came across some time ago.

Last year my cousin courageously ran the Amsterdam half marathon for charity. The foundation “Together is not alone” (Samen is niet alleen) for which he raised money is a small local charity that aims to support people in troubling situations mainly due to poverty. My cousin asked me to support his fundraising endeavour and obviously I donated.

Almost 4 months later I received an email with the subject “Spending marathon”. I opened it and this is what it said:

Dear all,

It’s been a couple of months since the half marathon and you must be curious what happened with your donation.

Here’s a list of children who can participate in out-of-school activities thanks to you.

– Bridget, 15 years. She is taking guitar lessons. Partly paid by the Youth Culture Fund and partly by you!
– Ilias, 8 years. Lives with his father in Amsterdam North. Is doing kickboxing now. The Youth Culture Fund is paying the fees. You are paying the clothing and attributes.
– Sofia, 15 years. She lives with her mother and 3 sisters in Amsterdam South. She is taking dance lessons with Dance-Dancing thanks to you!
– Iijah, 4 years. He’s too young to qualify for support from the Youth Culture Fund. He’s taking dance lessons with Da Moves and is very excited. When he’s older he wants to appear on ‘So you think you can dance’!
– Michael, 11 years. He wants to be the new Bill Gates. He’s part of a programming club with Code Cult.
– Brother and sister, Shinin and Anwar, 12 and 9 years. They live in Amsterdam North with their mother. They are both taking boxing lessons, which are being paid by the Youth Culture Fund. You are paying the clothing and supplies.
– Jayla, 10 years. She’s dancing on a very high level with Lucia Marthas. Partly the Youth Culture Fund pays this for, but because it’s rather expensive, we sponsor the rest.
– Rochano, 12 years. He is now kickboxing with Pancration. His family slipped through the safety net with all the rules and regulations, because they received support last year, they couldn’t qualify this year.
– Happy triplets on Amsterdam IJburg, 6 years. They can now follow SQULA, an online education program.
– Hassimiou, 9 years. She’s now taking horse riding lessons on a farm in IJburg, partly paid for by the Youth Culture Fund, partly by you!

We haven’t run out of money yet, so we will keep going!

Best regards,
Maaike Neys

This is super! Why?

  • It’s 10 little stories about real life: 10 families who are struggling to get by and 13 children who are chasing their dreams, or simply want to play and have fun. And we as donors made that happen. Wow!
  • It’s honest. First, they only take credit for what they’ve done, which is more humble than I see most charities do. Second, they seem to be making fair choices about more expensive activities, which is perfectly fine, because we want to stimulate Jayla’s talent. And last, they still have some money left! Have you heard that before? It feels like they take me serious. Actually, it made me want to donate again.
  • It’s to the point. It leaves no room for guessing where my money went.
  • By the way: it wasn’t a flashy HTML email. It was just a plain text email. And that was fine with me, because for once I didn’t feel distracted by the visual identity, the social media sharing pressure, or 5 other calls to action of the charity.

Often you see smaller charities communicate like this. With the bigger charities it becomes more marketing style and language; therefore more impersonal and more vague as to what my donation really did. But it really doesn’t have to be.

Which piece of donor communication impressed you lately?

Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit

Reinier is in love with fundraising since 2001. Ever since he's trying to improve his own fundraising skills and those of others. He's one of the original founders of 101fundraising. At the moment working with amazing clients through his one-man fundraising consultancy. Loves running and baseball.


Jim Weber · March 7, 2016 at 19:10

Renier, terrific post and a great reminder on the simple importance of how to follow up and say thank you. Thanks yet again for the quality content on 101Fundraising

Jim Weber
Fundraising Fixers
Melbourne Australia

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · March 7, 2016 at 21:41

    Thanks Jim. Always great to see 101 reaches the other side of the world!

JD Beebe · March 8, 2016 at 05:11

Hi Reiner,

Love the personal, intimate feel of this email. I may be biased but I think the “thank you” is the most overlooked yet most effective communication. If someone has helped you – even in your pursuit to help others – you owe it to them to express your gratitude.

Looking forward to seeing more of these stories!

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · March 9, 2016 at 21:38

    Thanks JD!

    It’s a very natural thing to say thank you in our daily lives for everything we get. Strangely enough, from an organizational perspective we seem to forget it most of the time…

Jagan · March 8, 2016 at 06:15

Good to see you blog Reinier. I agree, not always, it has to be a flashy HTML mail. Finally, it should connect with the donor.
Seems your fundraising and marathon are happening simoultaneously.

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · March 9, 2016 at 21:44

    Thanks Jagan! When are you going to run the marathon? :-) Together with Ajay and Vinay!

    All the best to Greenpeace India!

Rachel Beer · March 9, 2016 at 22:17

I love that email, Reinier – it would also have really struck a chord with me, if I’d received it. It comes across as being very authentic and, I agree, it’s all the better for it’s simplicity. Just goes to show what really has an impact – and that too many people place too much emphasis on design over content.

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · March 9, 2016 at 22:30

    Thanks Rachel, authenticity is often the first to suffer if an organisation grows bigger. Did you notice the email was not even personalised? I really didn’t care. The message was already so strong.

Maureen · March 10, 2016 at 20:56

Great letter!

William Douglas · March 13, 2016 at 20:32

What a contrast to a recent letter I received which made no reference to the project to which I had donated, itself a registered charity with its own bank account and was named on my cheque. Just a generic letter which gave as much space to asking me to check if I was donating using Gift Aid, information which the charity has logged on its own Raisers Edge database.

Keith · March 14, 2016 at 12:09

Great thank you letter….Thanks for sharing!!

Anita Robertson · March 15, 2016 at 20:29

Very nice, Jim, thank you for sharing!

    Anita Robertson · March 15, 2016 at 20:30

    oops sorry – I mean, Renier!

margo · March 30, 2016 at 22:24

Thank you Reinier and for reminding us that no matter how small a donation an appreciation like this makes the donor feel like a million dollars.

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