DM Diagnosis: Still Waiting …
On Day 60 I started to wonder if thank-you note etiquette had gone the way of eight-track cartridges, Astro Pops and leg warmers.
But the Emily Post Institute assures that, to the contrary, thank-you notes still are de rigueur. The only exception is when the gift is opened in the presence of the gift giver — otherwise, it is incumbent upon the recipient to send a thank-you note. And for the older generation in particular, a thank-you note not only is expected but also received as a gesture of respect and consideration.
Well, not one of the dozens of checks I gave to various organizations was presented in person. Instead, I relied on handy reply envelopes and the good ol’ USPS. Thus, none of them qualify for the “opened the gift in front of me” exemption.
But there I was on Day 60, still waiting for more than 20 percent of the recipients of my largess to acknowledge my gift.
As a fundraiser, I can make educated guesses as to why. But when I morph into Mrs. Gladys Gooddonor, I know nothing of our business. All Gladys knows is that a bank statement indicates the checks were cashed and not lost somehow, and she’s disappointed that her gifts must not have meant enough to those organizations to warrant a simple thank-you note.
Frankly, it irks Gladys and me both. Because I investigated when the checks cleared, I can verify that several organizations had no problem with a backlog in caging and cashiering, since some checks were posted as early as Day 5 during the heaviest mailing season of the year.
On the upside, however, nearly 80 percent of the organizations have thanked me. Some, wonderfully.
The thank you I received from the USO is among my favorites. It reads in part:
“Mrs. Seville, I’ve seen first-hand the magic your gifts can perform … the relieved look on the face of an exhausted GI as she finds a USO Center in a strange airport … the awkward grin of a young Marine when a famous rock star shakes his sandy hand and says, ‘Thanks! We’re here for you. You’re the real star!’ … the warm feeling that comes from a cold Coke on a hot day in the desert, served with a friendly smile and an encouraging word. And nothing compares to the sound of a child’s voice when Mommy or Daddy calls home from ‘the war.’”
They sure know how to make me feel good about that donation I sent. And no, I don’t mind at all when this thank-you letter then asks if I can find it in my heart to make an additional contribution to send a message to the brave men and women the USO serves — “that Americans back home are still behind them and that we honor and appreciate the sacrifices they’re making for us.”
Nope, I don’t mind a bit. In fact, I think every gift acknowledgment should go out with a return envelope and a, “Please return this donation slip with your next gift” reply device, even when there is no explicit ask for a donation. Many organizations turn their acknowledgment programs into tidy little profit centers that way.
Feelin’ the love
In about three weeks, I was also feeling the love from Audubon.
First the fleece blanket I had been promised arrived on Day 23. Impressive, I thought, for a back-end premium to arrive so quickly. Usually the offers include the six-to-eight-week delivery disclaimer, and even then it can take longer to fulfill, depending on the premium and the organization’s acknowledgement process. But three weeks? Props to Audubon!
Gladys, however, found it a little odd that there was nothing inside the envelope with the blanket, since this was the first she’d heard from Audubon after sending a gift. If it weren’t for the Audubon name and address on the plastic envelope the blanket arrived in, she wouldn’t have known who it was from.
Then a few days later Audubon magazine arrived, followed by a beautiful thank-you/membership card package the day after that. Maybe the sequencing was a little out of whack, but within a month of writing my check, Audubon got it all done, and that’s the important thing.
What type of postage are you using for your thank-you letters?
Here’s what showed up in my mailbox: indicia, 29 percent; First Class meter, 19 percent; presorted First Class stamp, 14 percent; presorted First Class meter, 14 percent; nonprofit Standard stamp, 14 percent; First Class stamp, 5 percent; nonprofit Standard meter, 5 percent.
Of the metered mail, it’s clear that the USPS is on its game with First Class delivery timelines, but it’s taking some nonprofits a month or more to get a thank-you letter in the mail.
Particularly with the 20 percent of the organizations I had yet to hear from on Day 60, I’m wondering how long it’s been since they monitored their acknowledgement processes. (And I don’t mean seeding the list and assuming all is well; I mean actually making a gift and watching to see what happens. It’s a smart self-audit to do periodically, both as a new donor and as a renewing donor.)
I also wonder how often outbound postage is being tested on acknowledgements — particularly with the unpredictable nature of when Standard mail delivers. And over what time frame are test results being reviewed? Sure, the savings from using Standard mail for acknowledgements helps lower costs up front … yet, what is it doing to retention if we fail the simplest donor expectation of saying thank you in a timely fashion?
Gladys doesn’t think about any of that. She just knows it feels good to be thanked and it makes her feel happy to have given.
So at the end of Day 60, who wins the race to say thanks?
Jerry Falwell. Less than two weeks after I mailed a check, I received both a warm thank-you letter and, on the same day but in a different package, the DVD offered in the acquisition package.
As far as this go-round of donations goes, both Gladys and I have great appreciation for the respect and consideration with which Jerry Falwell treats donors and the good manners he shows with a prompt thank-you note. And we’ll remember that when he asks for help in the future.
Kimberly Seville is a creative strategist and freelance copywriter. You can reach her at email@example.com.