“Wahhhh! He bonked me on the eyebrow with his super pointy elbow!”
“Did you in fact bonk her on her eyebrow with your super pointy elbow?”
“Yes, but it was an accident! I was reaching for the maple syrup and she moved her eyebrow into where my elbow was already reaching first! And it’s not THAT pointy!”
“Accidents happen. Can you say sorry to your sister?”
“uh, sorry” (tone is glum, bored and totally disingenuous)
In our home, we talk about the 2 kinds of sorry. You say you’re sorry when you hurt someone, even if it was not on purpose. That’s the first sorry. More importantly, you also have to mean it. That’s the second sorry.
The same is true with the way we say “thank you” to our donors. You can say it. But unless you mean it, they are just words. And they are meaningless. Your perfed-all-in-one-receipt-and-letter-that-starts-with-“On behalf of…” Ya, that’s like the first kind of sorry. It says the words, but it doesn’t feel it or mean it.
When you say “thank you”, and mean it, it’s a beautiful expression. Your donor tingles and sparkles in all the good ways. And it also makes you tingle and sparkle. It feels good for them. And for you.
I get it. I’m all about the feelings. And I know not everyone is.
But here’s the thing, for me, in a session at #AFPFC, a presenter talked about how sometimes donors don’t want a relationship. I nodded.
He continued, saying sometimes donors may give and all they need is a positive customer service experience. I half nodded. Because I think that even if all they need is a positive customer experience, they still deserve an experience that exceeds their expectations. But I’m still half nodding. Okay, I can go with it.
And then he suggested that we may be spending too much time on “relationship fundraising for donors” who only need “transactional marketing for consumers”. That’s when I threw up a little in my mouth.
So maybe in the UK and US, you’ve got files that are big enough that you may have done the analytics that proves this to be true. I have 3 problems with this.
- I think your data can be wrong. Or misleading. Quick example: a little old lady who sends $15 every 3 months to the cat rescue charity, whether she has been solicited or not. She may appear to be a transactional donor who doesn’t need extra attention. But you don’t know that she collects and saves all her newsletters, appeal letters and materials. She might even share them with her own cats! And she is be the best legacy prospect in your whole file. Don’t you want her to feel loved?
- I fundamentally believe that fundraising is about values. Money follows values. Donors give to you because your charity puts what they value into action. Saving kittens. Teaching kids to read. Caring for seniors. And these are not transactions in our lives. These are things that define us and that we are emotionally connected to. Why would you not try to send thank you and stewardship materials that shine with your values and build a sense of community around your cause?
- Here in Canada, at least, we see time and time again that many charities are not doing the basics of good donor stewardship. A prompt, genuine thank you. Sharing with donors how you used their gift. Using stories and emotions to keep them connected to your work. I fear that by suggesting some donors only need “transactional marketing for consumers” we are moving further away from these core, vital ways to thank and steward donors. We’re letting ourselves off the hook.
As fundraisers we have the opportunity—and I would say the obligation—to remind our donors—ALL our donors—that giving is a human, emotional experience.
When was the last time you felt too appreciated?