Getting It Right

thank-you-1Making a charitable gift is a wonderful thing.  But getting thanked incorrectly makes one feel horrible.  In the last few days I’ve:

  • Been thanked for my gift, then received another thank you but for someone else’s gift
  • Given a one-time gift and was thanked for a monthly gift of a totally different amount
  • Gotten a thank you for an online gift I didn’t complete

This all gives me pause.  Getting gifts right is the least a nonprofit can do to make a donor feel like what she does matters, and that it is something she wants to do again.

Years ago, I used to give a talk to local service clubs about making wise charitable choices.  Inevitably, the question of being thanked for one’s generosity would rear its ugly head.  Not once, but every single time I talked, more than three-quarters of the room would raise their hands when I asked if anyone had ever made a gift and not ever been thanked.  And “raise their hands” doesn’t quite express the activity.  People waved—frantically—and verbalized their frustration and anger.

It wasn’t so much that they wanted to be acknowledged as they wanted to know that their gift (a) got there and (b) was doing something to move the organization’s mission forward.

The other piece of this that gives me pause is how often, once I’ve made a gift, the only correspondence I get is, yes, asking me for another gift.

I’m a big believer in giving people lots of opportunities to support a nonprofit.  But—and this is a critical but—before you ask again, you must show that what the donor has done is making a difference.

“Thank you and give more” is irritating.  “Give more” as the only correspondence is insulting.  We’ve all be cautioned not to treat our donors as if they are ATM machines, and yet, as I’ve broadened my giving this year almost every organization I’ve donated to has made me feel that that is what they think I am.

Perhaps it is because in addition to the local organizations I’ve been giving to, I decided this year I needed to get more national.  And perhaps national organizations get so many donors, and so many gifts, that my humble offerings aren’t worth more to them that this automated (and too often wrong) reactions.  If that is the case, then they should be upfront—your gift, unless it is more than some amount, is not welcomed.  Or they need to get their technology right.

All of which makes me reflect of why I had stopped giving to larger organizations in the first place.

Unable to give at large levels, I felt that my gift was going into that famous black hole.  What got me only a thank you and then another ask at a large organization, often brought outreach that sought to bring me further inside with smaller organizations.  Of course, sometimes small organizations didn’t even get the thank you wrong as they never got any thanks out at all.

As the year ends and it becomes time to make your New Year’s resolutions make one that you will get stewardship right.  Thank donors appropriately not just for the gift they just gave but for the support they could give you in the future if only you show them how important that support is.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits helping to build fundraising capacity and move them from mired to inspired. Learn more at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and connect with Janet for a free 30-minute consultation to see how she can help you make 2017 more rewarding.