Thanking – my goodness it really works

Published by Joe Sutton on

Donors like to be thanked and we like to thank donors. Don’t we?  Yes, particularly if it’s cheap and quick. Let me tell you what we did.  It was fairly cheap, not so quick, but rather simple. I also have some great evidence that it works for supporters. Hope and Homes for Children is a medium-sized charity, with income at £7 million and a small individual giving file and a small team looking after it. We pride ourselves on our donor care and we do lots of personal, handwritten notelets.

We have a relatively small number of regular givers (1,500) and we decided to write to every one of them and thank them. Sorry, not just write, handwrite.  Yep, HANDWRITE. We set ourselves a year, and we used a couple of (brilliant) volunteers, plus some permanent staff time and quieter periods to do it (lets face it they weren’t sitting at home thinking, where’s my regular giving thank you?). With print costs, stamps and staff time it cost £2,000. postcard_1Also, we did it because we genuinely just wanted to thank our wonderful supporters, nothing more.

We told supporters what they had given, and how much it was worth to the charity.  It was quite simple: it took 4 minutes to write a card, therefore 14 days over the past year (assuming 7 hour days, assuming no breaks or interruptions!).

But what did the donors think?

This note was received with a £2,500 gift:

Thank you very much for your kind note letting me know what my money does for you and for the children you work with. Thank you also for not asking for more!  I am full of admiration for what Hope and Homes for Children have achieved over the years in making so many children’s lives so much better – giving them real hope for their futures.”

Another said:

Just a quick note to thank you for the card which I received today. I was amazed to see how much I have donated to Hope and Homes over the years, Graphic_2and am privileged to be able to continue to contribute. I don’t remember ever receiving such a communication. With all the negative publicity about charities who “abuse” their regular donors, your approach and attitude has to be “best in class”.

But look what happened to our lapsed rate and upgrading since we started the activity last July. In the last 12 months (April 2015 to March 2016) 63 supporters have lapsed.  The equivalent periods (april 15 to Mar 15 and April 14 to March 15) 101 and 97 lapsed, respectively. A small number of donors also increased their gifts too.

There you go, proof that thanking works.  Good luck!

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Joe Sutton

Joe Sutton has been at Hope and Homes for Children since 2007, and has been Head of Supporter Care for that time, including 3 years in the joint role of Head of Community Fundraising. Previous roles have been in fundraising and marketing in the public and charity sectors. The Supporter Care team is responsible for individual giving, supporter care and legacies and the Charity prides itself for its high level of donor care. Joe spends his spare time running around after small children, and the mutually complementary activities of triathlon and gardening.


Esther Landau · June 9, 2016 at 18:13

This is awesome. My question is – are you going to do this from now on, or was it a one-year experiment? Maybe try reserving it for the lapsed doors to remind them they are special and needed?

    Joe Sutton · June 10, 2016 at 09:37

    Hi Esther, we’ve actually been doing this for 21 years, its just that this is the first time we have done it in a systematic and tracked way to give us quantitative rather than anecdotal evidence.

Viki Hayden Ward · June 10, 2016 at 16:48

100% agree with this approach! I recently wrote about my personal experience in getting great results by taking the time to hand-write thank you letters! Great work – keep it up! If only all organisations knew how to treat their donors!


Nick · June 14, 2016 at 12:08

Joe you’re a legend, but we knew that anyway. Still try to take forward your approach to donor care when I go to other charities, but it really is embedded at HHC.

Tim Corke · June 14, 2016 at 12:39

Wonderful article Joe, thanks for sharing – keep up the great work at East Clyffe!

Giles Pegram · July 17, 2016 at 13:09

Love your blog. See you tomorrow. Giles

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