Dear Donation Recipient, ‘Thank You’ is Almost Enough

Not long ago I was meeting with a Senior Vice-President of Community Relations for a major national bank. The discussion moved to the topic of status updates regarding funds donated to local charities. Specifically, the perceived pattern of poor follow up after the check is cashed.

His candid statement was, “It’s more than a little irritating that I don’t hear from them – it’s like they vanish – until they come back to me a year later with their annual appeal.” The statement was made with a veneer of wonderment.

Is this a perception or is there enough reality behind it to be fact? I hope you’ll agree – it doesn’t matter – it’s an issue he can fix with a simple letter to his donors. But he’ll never write it. But if he did it would read like this.

Dear Charity;

I have a wish. It’s not terribly daunting, or for that matter very creative. It’s a wish that you do something for me, and it’s something you already do with conditional grants you receive. Every grant comes with an expectation of deliverables and accountability. You get money, you agree to use it properly, and report back on your performance. Grant compliance is an activity you perform regularly or risk losing future funding.

My wish is that you treat my corporate ‘gift’ as if it were a grant. Put some process around checking in with me, one of your corporate donors and you will have a better chance of receiving more gifts from our organization.

As you know, I am responsible for gifting over 40 charities in a calendar year. I turn down 50-70 critical requests every year and answer 100s of e-mails coming from others like you with a need for funding. I serve on three charity boards, I have a family and I travel considerably for work. I don’t have a lot of time to seek out feedback about how our donation is helping you make a difference. Even your friendly newsletter is lost in the bottom of my inbox where it will likely stay – unread.

I know someone in your organization put some time and effort into winning my attention and inspiring me to push your request for a gift ahead of others. Now think about the size of the investment you will have to make to ensure our relationship is preserved.

What I wish for is a periodic checkpoint using a device called a telephone. It’s a simple and elegant touch that ensures our relationship is strong and sound.


Your Favorite Donor

BTW, don’t stop sending the newsletter.


My wish is that you will never see such a letter or believe you are deserving of one.

Here are some recommendations for keeping your relationships strong with your corporate donors.

  1. When you receive the check, send a personal thank you note (from either the Executive Director or CEO). Phone your donor and thank them for gift. During the call, ask them how they would like to receive quarterly updates. Suggest a quick phone chat and you will have made a friend
  2. Put reminders in your calendar and be diligent about following through with your quarterly calls.
  3. Surprise your donor with a personal visit. You’ll be surprised how far a smile and a handshake coupled with a hearty, “Thank you” will go in keeping relationships healthy.

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