The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

An anonymous letter that all fundraisers should read

A blog reader sent me the following letter this week. I agreed to protect the source, so I’m not sharing names. Development directors: look how important your job is – and how critical execution proves to be! Talk about penny wise, pound foolish…


You often stress the importance of timely thank you’s, and as a donor, I can say that I really do notice how quickly I get an acknowledgement for a donation. If it doesn’t come quickly, I get annoyed. On two occasions, with two different organizations, I’ve actually followed up to find out why I hadn’t received anything in the mail to acknowledge my gift.

On the first occasion, after giving a reasonably large donation to an annual fund and not hearing back for about three weeks, I spoke with the development director to make sure he’d actually received and processed my donation. He seemed quite surprised, as he remembered writing me an immediate and enthusiastic thank you letter. He called me back the next day to tell me that he’d looked into it, and discovered that someone in the mailroom had been holding all his letters until there were enough to do a bulk mailing!

On the second occasion, just this week, I followed up with an organization to which I had committed a capital campaign gift in a phone conversation several weeks prior. I mentioned that I hadn’t received anything in the mail, such as a pledge form or letter of intent to make my commitment binding (let alone a thank you). It turned out that development officer had also written me a letter immediately to be sent with a pledge form, but again, the person who was actually responsible for getting things into the mail was holding the letter until some other materials that were going to be sent to me were ready–so I still haven’t received it, five weeks later.

In both instances, the development person did the right thing–immediate and enthusiastic thanks. In both instances, someone on their staff made the decision to save a stamp. A good process derailed, and goodwill and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in future donations potentially jeopardized–all for the price of a first-class stamp.

-Anonymous reader

This letter is important! And I’ve had the same experience often – only like most donors, I didn’t bother calling the fundraiser.

Dear fundraisers, you may think you are doing everything right – but you never know what small, broken process behind the scenes is undermining your best efforts. Take heed – and make sure your donors are really getting the prompt thanks they deserve.

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  • kathywertheim

    For a bulk mailing, all the letters have to be EXACTLY the same. That means in a thank-you letter, all the gifts given would have to be the same. You could only bulk-mail thank you receipts if they were all the for the same amount. A personal letter certainly wouldn’t count. That’s why even large organizations send their thank-you letters first class.

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Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

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