Donors deserve better homepage art‘Tis truly the season of giving.

A recent survey conducted by Charity Navigator revealed that, on average, charities receive 41% of their annual contributions in December:

  • 93% said they donated in December 2010
  • 91% plan to give this December
  • 57% intend to give the same as last year
  • 25% plan to give more
  • 18% plan to give less

With this data in mind, do you think a year-end appeal should read URGENT and look like an invoice? I assure you the appeals that arrive to me in this format are quickly recycled.

One of the most respected brands in the world is Apple®, and they take great efforts to protect their brand. One example of this is not being able to use the word “free” associated with an Apple product because the
word-association devalues their brand–the word “giveaway” is
acceptable. Subtle difference. I submit to you that the use of a word like “urgent” or an invoice-approach are already devaluing your organization. You might be receiving gifts from these approaches, but would those gift amounts be higher if your approach was stronger?

I’d like to think we can do better.

How about creating appeals with long-term results in mind! For
organizations to truly sustain their important work, they need
loyal donors who are inspired to give year after year because they
care about your cause, and more importantly, they know you care
about their support. One of the most successful annual appeals I
have seen was a simple page and a half letter that was mailed in an
attractive envelope with the strength of the organizational logo
and a bulk stamp (as opposed to a bulk permit indicia). The letter
was personalized (Dear Nancy), compelling, mission-focused,
gracious and hand-signed by a board member who I know. It expressed
gratitude for my past support by giving the date and amount of the
last gift (my favorite asset in any appeal to a loyal giver!)
The return gift slip and gift acknowledgement followed a similar
simple yet attractive standard.

Okay. Now that I’ve opened up this can of worms, I think sending a gift acknowledgement that looks like an invoice is even worse than sending an appeal that does.

Donors deserve better.

Slide67Inspirational writer
William Arthur Ward has said: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing
it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” I believe feeling
gratitude and sending a gift acknowledgment that resembles an
invoice, is like wrapping a present and stomping on it in front of
the recipient. Unacceptable.

It is not too late to take a poorly
executed appeal that has resulted in a gift and turn it into
something meaningful for your donor and your organization. A
handwritten thank you will not fulfill your IRS obligations to
contributors of $250 or more, but you should still consider the
extra effort. Also, a phone call to thank a donor can be a
meaningful way to steward a gift, even if it is just a voice mail
to say: “We recently received your annual contribution, and we
wanted you to know how grateful we are for your loyal support.”

In closing, create appeals that are a genuine reflection of your
organizational brand. Express your appreciation for each and every
contribution, and deliver it with a timely and personalized
approach. Exceed donor expectations with your gratitude. Your
donors will notice.



Lisa Sargent’s The Better Donation Thank You Letter
offers helpful tips for writing an appropriate
gift acknowledgment.

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