Gratitude Is Not Enough

A regular annual fund donor sends in a gift – a check for $1,000.  Your organization promptly produces a gift receipt and sends a letter (either hard copy or electronic) expressing gratitude signed by the appropriate staff person.

Is that it?  Is that all that happens?

Despite all the talk about “engaging donors,” I’m afraid to say that for many educational, healthcare, and non-profit organizations, the answer is “yes.”

So, what else should we be doing in response to a donor’s gift?  Here are 3 simple responses, which, when included in a letter with a gift receipt, could transform your organization’s relationships with its donors.  After expressing ample gratitude in the letter,  why not:

  1. Invite them to join you at an event or other activity.  A student fine arts performance or an athletic event on your campus.  The concert by the Woman’s Choir that is being given during the Christmas season at your hospital.  A community festival or event important to your organization.  Or, if they live outside of your region, alert them to an outreach event that you are planning in their area.
  2. Ask for their advice.  Let them know that your development office is seeking donor feedback on how your organization can make the donor experience more meaningful.  That you’d like to talk with them via phone for a 10-15 minute survey.  Develop questions if you don’t have some good ones and conduct a survey.  Imagine what you just might learn.  And imagine how many relationships you may strengthen.
  3. Let them know you’d like to visit them.  Even if you already know them, a statement such as, “Our institution is enjoying such momentum currently.  I would welcome the opportunity to visit with you and share the many positive developments.”

Our work is about building purposeful relationships with donors.  Saying “thanks” in response to a gift is appropriate – but it is also the bare minimum of responses.  To generate the kind of engagement we say we want with our donors, we must stretch beyond extending gratitude and, instead,  extend ourselves.


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