Earlier this year I decided to become a regular supporter of a local charity. Unfortunately, their donor acknowledgement process was so lacking that I cancelled my regular gift shortly after (they didn’t get in touch once, despite having my address, phone number and email details.) I still wanted to help local animals however, so I started to send one-off donations to different charities each month. What started out as a simple act of kindness quickly transformed into an intriguing journey of Donor Acknowledgement Discovery.
Each month the response I received (if I received one at all!) was drastically different. Sometimes I’d get a simple “Thanks for your support”, other times I’d be snowed under by what felt like a tree’s worth of paper in my mail box. The range of emotional reactions I had to these was astounding: everything from anger and disappointment (“Why have they used my entire donation on printing and posting?”) to happiness and a sense of accomplishment, which lead to an immediate repeat donation and a membership application.
So what lead to such a positive, immediate and decisive response? The charity sent me a simple greetings card. It looked like it had been designed and printed in-house. Inside was a short handwritten message from a volunteer thanking me for my donation, saying that they appreciated my help and were grateful of my support.
Importantly, they’d taken the time to spell my name right (you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve been addressed as Geneva, Guenevere, Glenn or even Stephen!) They also enclosed their latest newsletter, which was a great read. They shared success stories, details of their latest events and initiatives as well as some logistical information. The last page contained a short donation/membership form for those willing or able to help, which I eagerly filled out and returned that same day. With it I sent a brief letter telling them how impressed I was and that I looked forward to receiving their newsletter in future. The charity replied shortly after, thanking me for my letter and additional donation, and said that they would make sure I got the next newsletter issue. Sure enough a month or so later there was my newsletter with “As promised!” written at the top!
Amazingly, this all came from a small, volunteer-run charity. I don’t know how many volunteers or donors there are, I don’t know whether they have a fundraising database or what kind of turnover they have, but the effort they put into making me feel special and important was above and beyond anything I could have imagined. The small, personal touches such as the “As promised!” note made me feel like I am a truly valued donor, and not just another name on their list. Their stewardship is truly remarkable and ensures my continued support.
In short, your acknowledgement process doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to be effective. You don’t have to have top-of-the-line graphics or gimmicky technology to engage your donors, it’s how you make them feel which will unlock their full potential.