What’s wrong with thanking donors?

I just got an email with the subject line “I’m so grateful.” Let’s see what this is all about.

Turns out it’s from a rescue mission, an organization that I love and support.

Here’s the text of the email:

Dear George,

What a wonderful day! And you helped make it happen.

I cannot thank you enough for your support of our #GiveFromHomeDay.

Your generosity makes a life-changing difference for the people we serve — homeless men, women and children who are desperately in need of hope.

As we do everything we can to reach our most vulnerable neighbors, your support is what makes our work possible.

On behalf of all of us here, and especially on behalf of the families we serve, I hope you know just how appreciated you are.


Okay, an important point here. “You helped make it happen”? Uh, no, I didn’t. I have supported this organization in the past, but I didn’t give to this specific campaign. Soooo … why are they thanking me?

Are they trying to guilt me into giving now? Is that why they’re thanking me for something I didn’t do?

Or do they not know that I didn’t give? And they’re just sending the thank you out to everyone on the email list for some reason?

Either way, this email is not giving me warm fuzzies as a supporter. And that’s too bad, because this email could have been written in such a way as to thank donors who did give, present the opportunity for those who didn’t give yet to give now, and still be able to send the email out to the entire list.

But all of that notwithstanding, the bigger issue is this notion of thanking donors – reflexively and constantly – in every communication, no matter what. There’s this idea that we have to be thanking donors all the time, and that this is some kind of expression of “donor love” or donor centricity.

There’s a time and a place to thank donors – like in a thank you email sent in response to a donation, in a newsletter where you’re emphasizing positive outcomes, and so on. Because then you’re thanking donors for doing something good and positive – something, in other words, that they’d expect to be thanked for.

Acknowledging and appreciating your supporters doesn’t mean you have to begin every appeal letter or email with a thank you, or that the purpose of an appeal is to stroke the donor’s ego instead of presenting a compelling offer, or that you just send out blanket thank yous to an entire donor list for no reason.

When you do that, donors see it as the smokescreen that it so obviously is.

Plus, it’s patronizing. Most donors are people in the 60s, 70s, and beyond. They know BS when they read it. They also know it’s not endearing to be thanked for something unnecessarily.

So by thanking donors when it’s not warranted or in communications where it doesn’t fit, you’re not bringing your donors closer. You’re reinforcing the negative impression that most donor communications are just a lot of hot air that really shouldn’t be believed or taken seriously. And all that does is undermine your fundraising.

This entry was posted in copywriting, donor psychology, fundraising, nonprofit and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s