Stupid Stewardship Steps

This morning, as I was trying to think of something to blog about, I got the following email wipe-out(with names redacted): The subject line was Information about your 2016 donation to (our organization)

The email itself went on to say:  Dear (organization) Supporter,  Income tax season is here. Please let us know if you would like a summary of your 2016 calendar year giving by contacting me at or 555-555-5555.   Thank you for your continued support of the Organization. Sincerely, Person Who Doesn’t Get It Advancement Officer

I am sure that the impetus for this was to steward the organization’s donors.  That is a good idea.  But the execution is not so smart.

For starters, I am NOT a donor to this organization.  I was a vendor many years ago, but that has been my only connection.  That’s not the problem, the problem is that the Advancement Officer didn’t bother to pull a list of 2016 donors—something that is so easy to do—and sent me and probably many many others an email we didn’t need.

I know, I know.  I could just delete.  But email has become ubiquitous and daily I receive more than 100 emails.  It’s bad enough that there are many of those I don’t particularly want, but at least have the potential of being useful or interesting to me.  But to get emails I have no need of is truly annoying.  Too often it leads to a frenzy of deletes, which causes other problems.

But more than that, why is this Advancement Officer making more work for the donor?  Aren’t we supposed to be making things easier for them? How about instead of this generic and unhelpful email, sending out something like this: Dear (name):

Thank you so much for the contribution(s) you made to our organization in 2016.  Your support has been instrumental in helping us push our mission forward.  (Note, instead of that very generic sentence, you might want to actually connect the dots and tell donors what they helped to accomplish).   Attached (or, The following) is a summary of your 2016 calendar year giving to our organization.  We hope this helps you as you work on your income taxes!  If you have any questions or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at (contact information).

Your past support has meant so much to our organization (and our clients).  We are so pleased that you are part of our organization family.


Your Name

On the receipt, make sure you put the necessary substantiation or quid pro quo statements.  And, of course, make sure that you sending this out to donors and thinking about how to engage those people who didn’t give in 2016 so that they become donors this year.