The Importance of ‘Thank You’
As your mother said, saying “thank you” is really important. For nonprofit organizations, it’s essential. In fact, if you don’t express gratitude quickly and well, your donors are likely to give somewhere else.
The Red Cross took a beating after Hurricane Katrina last summer because it didn’t quickly acknowledge contributions. The New York Times quoted one donor on tardy gift acknowledgments as saying: “It raises concerns about where the money is. If it’s not clearing within a reasonable amount of time, where is it? Is it in a secure location? It’s certainly an inconvenience for the people giving money, and it all adds up to questions about the Red Cross.”
The Red Cross probably had a justifiable reason for slow acknowledgment of gifts immediately following Hurricane Katrina — as many organizations do during the busy holiday fundraising season, for example. But we can’t deny the significance of a donor’s first impression when his gift isn’t acknowledged in a timely fashion.
The risks of slow ‘thank you’ messages
Failure to quickly and correctly acknowledge a donor’s gift can be organizational suicide. No donor’s going to give again until his previous gift is properly acknowledged. Would you?
Still, it seems that saying “thank you” in a timely fashion is difficult for some organizations. Last summer, as part of a continuing study of how nonprofit organizations communicate with their donors, my colleagues sent $20 contributions to 21 organizations. The gifts were mailed on July 7, 2005, by regular First Class mail.
Every organization that received one of the test contributions sent an acknowledgment. The fastest to be received was from Habitat for Humanity — 11 days from the date the gift was sent. The slowest was The Salvation Army of Washington, D.C., at 61 days after the gift was sent.
The average gift acknowledgment was received in 36 days. The median number of days between the mail date and the acknowledgment being received was 50, meaning half of the organizations sent their gift receipts in fewer than 50 days and half took longer than 50 days.