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To thank or not to thank Felicity Donor


A bit of an online debate has developed this week, sparked by a Thirdsector blog from a Ms Felicity Donor.  She states that she genuinely isn’t bothered about being thanked by a charity she chose to support.

“Why would I want to be patronised by a soft, fluffy letter thanking me for my help?… if they’re spending my cash on [research] rather than a letter, it’s fine by me.”

A number of sector notables, including Jeff Brooks at Future Fundraising Now have (politely) suggested that Ms. Donor is entitled to her opinion but that she’s wrong.  Ubiquitous ‘research’ has been cited which suggests that charities MUST thank supporters in a timely fashion.  If we’re honest this also passes the basic common sense test.

But hang on just a tic…

Felicity Donor is entitled to her opinion and surely we can’t believe that she is the only donor on the entire planet who holds this opinion.  In fact it’s more than likely that her opinion is shared by many people but we, as communicators and fundraisers, tend to base our decisions and activities on majority rule.  After all, most research only ever illustrates this point and seldom recommends a 100% trusim.

Consequently, perhaps it’s not for us to tell ALL of our donors what’s best for them?  A recent penguin blog suggested several reasons why the donor or customer is not always right.

We are told by various experts and research that our world is changing faster than at any time in history.  The explosion in new media, an ageing population in the western world, significant cultural differences impacting on each society and the much documented ‘different view’ of the world held by Generation Y, all have a bearing.  Therefore the expectations placed on any charity by its target audiences are increasingly varied.

Isn’t it time we started to think more seriously about ways of capturing communications preferences at the start of our relationship or a donation process?  We could then apply them appropriately throughout a relationship; appealing to Ms. Donor, me, my parents, my grandfather – everyone (whether today’s donors actually want a ‘relationship’ in the traditional sense is a big topic for another day).

After all, the first rule of supporter engagement is to listen then act, not assume then act.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. 28/07/2010 1:27 pm

    I believe that this is really a question about “agency”. After all, the person doing or not doing the thanking is not the beneficiary of the gift, they are acting as an agent on behalf of the donor, seeking to help a beneficiary. The agent necessarily incurs costs, and should as a matter of principle seek to minimise these. In this context they should justify their thanking policy on the basis of measured return on the associated cost. And of course segmentation of the donor base is an fundamental part of the process.

    • Kevin Baughen permalink*
      28/07/2010 1:38 pm

      Good points Ben. The further question for charities is then to consider not just whether and how they should thank supporters but how they can afford to do so?

  2. 15/09/2010 6:32 pm

    Hey can I copy and paste this post on my web site? What references must I give? You might give this info for other people too.

    • Kevin Baughen permalink*
      17/09/2010 4:43 pm

      Thanks for your comments – much appreciated. My ideal would be that you include a link to this article on your blog rather than copy and paste content directly, please. Sorry, but I have had my content distorted by others and don’t want to get in trouble again!

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