Put the focus on thank you, please.

Fundraising maven Pamela Grow has presented her followers with a daring challenge: for one whole year, cease donor acquisition activities. “What if you made 2013 the year of the individual donor and got off the acquisition treadmill, once and for all?” she asks. (Read more here.)

I get her point, despite my aversion to either/or strategies. I’d like to think most fundraisers are capable of chewing gum while walking – to hold and grow donor bases, and do so simultaneously. But like Pam, I see a lot of organizational stumbles.


That said, I think a slightly more modest remedy to what ails nonprofit fundraising could do. What if we make 2013 the year in which we give as much attention to saying thank you as we do to saying please?


I’ll admit, this one is personal. I recently received thank yous from two organizations that looked more like invoices than notes of appreciation. In fact, one was so bill-like I almost paid it, until I remembered I had given to, not purchased from, the ministry.

Neither thank you included information about ministry achievements. No story. No update. Not even a signature. In short, nothing that would grow a giver’s heart.

And that makes me sad. Not so much for myself – I’m a long-time supporter of both and it’ll take more than a clumsy gift acknowledgement to put me off. Rather, my sorrow is for first-time or newer donors to the organizations. I worry that careless, lazy thank yous will diminish rather than encourage future generosity – and not just to the offending ministries.

As Thom Jeavons and I cautioned in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, all who care about the vitality and integrity of faith-based organizations should be troubled by botched thank yous. There are hearts at stake as surely as ministry goals. When people give to your cause, they share more than money. They share their dreams, their hopes, their faithfulness.

If an organization can’t muster a heart-felt thank you in response to such great gifts, it has no business asking – for the first time or for the hundredth.

So are you up to the challenge? There’s time enough remaining to make 2013 the year in which you give as much attention to saying thank you as you do to saying please. (Congregational leaders, this applies to you as well.) Appreciation matters whenever and wherever people give.

For more on this topic, see:

Tips for perfecting your thank you

What part of thank you don’t you understand?

Forget the stuff, give ’em information



  1. This is a great message. If your heart is truly appreciative and your cause is truly doing great work, the funding will come. Desperate asking and clumsy follow-through can really do long term relational damage. In my last position I implemented a 4-1 rule, four thanks for every please. Just seeing how hard it was to switch gears and actually implement that was a real wake-up call for the need to do so! Thanks for this!

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