Friday, March 5, 2010

Electronic Thank You Messaging

Thank you. Two simple words that can mean everything and the lack of them can make a world of difference in the other direction. As a parent of 3 small children, I spend my fair share of time sounding like my own parents. "What are the magic words?" comes out of my mouth before I even think about it.

How do we ensure that every action is appropriately acknowledged? Big gifts are usually covered, pretty sure nobody has every had a problem remembering to say thank you to donors when there are 5, 6 or more 0s associated with the gift. But what happens when that gift is follow by a dot and two 0s? How are you handling donors of $5 or even $1?

ABC news carried a story recently about an alumnae who left Lake Forest College $7 million in her will and she is typical of many planned gifts - they were unaware that it was on the way, she had little to no gift history and lived a frugal and modest lifestyle. The appreciated assets that provided the basis of this gift do not show up on any screening nor was there any indication that she would be capable of this level of support. We all need to treat every donor as though they are that "secret millionaire" because we just never know who really will be.

I provide donors under $20 with a unique postcard thank you every month. This is on top of what is provided by the stewardship office, coming out of the annual giving budget. I find that this group is in the short term the least likely to renew so the extra expense makes sense and that additional thank you carries more weight with that audience than with donors of larger amounts. It is not expected and that makes it all the more meaningful.

Budget an issue, do this via email - how many donors of less than $20 or even $50 do you have? Can you do a monthly email from you or a member of the annual giving staff to those donors? It can be as simple as a mail merge from outlook and take an hour a month to send but it is personal, direct and will engender responses, opening the dialogue to larger things, you never know who may be the seven figure donor you had no idea was out there.

Grandma was right - "thank you" are magic words!


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