Why charities need to say more than 'thank you'
I reckon that every time I buy a packet of crisps from the kiosk at Clapham Junction I say ‘thank you’ about five times. I say it when someone holds the door open for me, and when I hold the door open for someone else (why?).
And yet, I have a sneaking suspicion that the man who sells me Spicy Tomato Wheaties at Clapham Junction doesn’t feel particularly thanked. It’s just expected. Perhaps he’d miss it if I bought my crisps in surly silence. But that’s hardly the point.
So while we may all agree that ‘thanking’ matters, I don’t think saying ‘thank you’ is enough. (Actually we don’t all agree that thanking is important, but that’s another blog post).
‘Thank you’ is ubiquitous in charity feedback communications. We simply can’t say it often enough. I have a feeling its ubiquity emerges from a customer service culture which is about being nice and providing a basic level of ‘hygiene’ to stop your customers defecting.
But the difference is, your donors aren’t customers. And you’re not there to serve them (to take their donation with a smile).
You’re there to inspire them, upset them, move them, make them feel needed and valued, show them that they have the power to change the world. Your feedback should make them feel elated, inspired, fulfilled, reassured and powerful. ‘Thank you’ doesn’t really cut it.
‘Beyond thank you’
As ever, the point isn’t what you say, it’s how you make people feel when you say it. So thinking about what donors actually want to hear might be a useful place to start.
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that a donor who has just given to help a dog that was rescued from cruelty might want to know how that dog is doing. Someone who has given to save children’s lives really just wants to know that there’s a living, breathing, laughing child somewhere in the world that’s running around because of what they did.
That’s a lot more inspiring than letting them know that the organisation they have just given to really needs and values their money. Because in fundraising, that should be a given, shouldn’t it?
‘Thanking’ has become a catch-all term to cover the communication we send to donors in response to their gift. But before you write the words ‘thank you’, have a think about what you want the donor to feel, and therefore what you need to say to get them to feel it. Valued? Moved? Inspired? Humbled? They’re all a good start, and will lead you to much more interesting places than “Thank you for your recent gift”.