When thank-a-thons go bad

Two weeks ago I received a thank you call from a board member of an organization of which I have been a long-time supporter.

It kind of went like this:

Hi, How are you.

I’m making my thank you calls to supporters. I wanted to thank you for your support.

Okay, that’s all.

Here I am two weeks later and this is what I remember:

  • I’m scratching my head trying to remember what organization it was and who called me. And I knew the person who called me. (Of course, this can just be my own bad memory).
  • I remember that the call felt forced and kind of painful. I felt uncomfortable for the caller.

I don’t think this is exactly what the organization was trying to accomplish.

Here’s what Penelope Burk, researcher and author of Donor Centered Fundraising,  advises around thank you calls:

” A true gesture of thanks is one that happens immediately after the gift has been received…. Calling donors to thank them for their continuing loyalty long after their most recent gift has been received can also be effective, but it requires more careful scripting and timing.” [emphasis added]

What would have made this more satisfying for me:

  • A bit of news. What’s up that I might be interested in hearing about? I’ve been the board chair, an event supporter, connected into a focus group, and lots of other stuff. I’d be interested.
  • Maybe a question for me.  Say, it’s been almost 10 years since you rotated off the board. Yet, you’ve been such a loyal supporter of ours in all that time. What keeps you connected?
  • Or maybe just a more personal thank you message. Haven’t seen you since that really engaging event that Susie led. But I still remember how great it was to have you there contributing your perspective. I’m just calling today because I’m remembering how fortunate our organization has been to have you with us all these years. Thank you.

Saying “thank you” to a donor definitely matters. Organizational indifference is one of the leading reasons people stop giving.

But perhaps put a little more thought into the strategy behind your next thank-a-thon?


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