Tag Archives: missed opportunities

Attention All Fundraisers: Read This!

5 Sep

Wednesday, September 5,2012

Katya Andresen received this letter that every non-profit leader, employee and volunteer should read….and do all that they can not to replicate the events.


You often stress the importance of timely thank you’s, and as a donor, I can say that I really do notice how quickly I get an acknowledgement for a donation. If it doesn’t come quickly, I get annoyed. On two occasions, with two different organizations, I’ve actually followed up to find out why I hadn’t received anything in the mail to acknowledge my gift. 

On the first occasion, after giving a reasonably large donation to an annual fund and not hearing back for about three weeks, I spoke with the development director to make sure he’d actually received and processed my donation. He seemed quite surprised, as he remembered writing me an immediate and enthusiastic thank you letter. He called me back the next day to tell me that he’d looked into it, and discovered that someone in the mailroom had been holding all his letters until there were enough to do a bulk mailing! 

On the second occasion, just this week, I followed up with an organization to which I had committed a capital campaign gift in a phone conversation several weeks prior. I mentioned that I hadn’t received anything in the mail, such as a pledge form or letter of intent to make my commitment binding (let alone a thank you). It turned out that development officer had also written me a letter immediately to be sent with a pledge form, but again, the person who was actually responsible for getting things into the mail was holding the letter until some other materials that were going to be sent to me were ready—so I still haven’t received it, five weeks later. 

In both instances, the development person did the right thing—immediate and enthusiastic thanks. In both instances, someone on their staff made the decision to save a stamp. A good process derailed, and goodwill and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in future donations potentially jeopardized—all for the price of a first-class stamp.

-Anonymous reader

I almost can’t believe that this still happens. But my guess is that we’ve let ourselves get lazy. We’ve gotten lost in the social media-sphere and don’t know how to make simple interactions. The thank you letter/call as well as physical mailings are all but obsolete for some organizations. Katya is constantly reminding those of us who work with and for non-profits that the follow up — the ‘thank you’ in particular — is one of the most important practices for any development director. 

I can’t fathom why anyone would treat a donor the way this author was treated. My suggestion: if you are in development, don’t! Don’t let another donor feel this way. Don’t let future opportunities be squandered because one person felt un- or under-appreciated. 

Your turn: How do you thank donors? Have you ever had an experience like this one? What steps did you take to correct it?

Thanks! Until next time, be well!


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