DM Diagnosis: Thank You
I’m beginning to think I’ve been placed on the equivalent of a No Fly List in one nonprofit’s direct-marketing database. Here’s what happened …
After much check writing on New Year’s Eve in 2007, I made my annual flurry of contributions, dropping dozens of BREs, CREs and the occasional stamped reply envelope into the drive-up mailbox at my neighborhood post office. One of the envelopes had come from the No Fly nonprofit’s acquisition control, and I used it to send my $250 check.
On Jan. 10, 2008, the funds cleared from my account, so I know the organization received the donation, even though it hadn’t yet been acknowledged. On March 26, 2008, the same acquisition control package I had responded to initially arrived. It was the only communication the nonprofit sent me in all of 2008. I thought surely there must have been a mishap, because how could any nonprofit knowingly let a $250 gift go unacknowledged?
So this past New Year’s Eve, I tried again. I used the reply envelope from the March 2008 acquisition control, wrote out another $250 check and popped it into the mail along with dozens of other donations. This year the check was cashed on Jan. 7, though my gift has yet to be acknowledged, and — once more, with feeling — the acquisition control arrived again on Feb. 6.
I’m used to not being thanked for my donations, sadly. But this is just downright weird. If I’m not on some kind of No Fly List, then this is surely the Direct-Mail Twilight Zone.
With another organization, I’m up to three years running with annual $50 gifts that are never acknowledged. Two years ago I checked my preferred two gifts to be sent free with my donation, but they were never fulfilled. So, this year I didn’t bother.
Unlike the No Fly nonprofit, however, this organization does send me more than one piece of mail annually. In the first two months of 2009 alone, I received a blizzard of resolicitations — five special appeals, two annual renewals and a magazine. Wow. The folks at this organization definitely know where I live, even if they don’t know or care that I just sent $50.
These two nonprofits are in good (?) company, I regret to report. More than 23 percent of the organizations I made contributions to in this last round of giving failed to acknowledge my gift after more than eight weeks. None of them are obscure, little-known groups; they are well-known, major mailers.
And that concludes my rant on the sad state of acknowledgments — because there’s a lot to be celebrated in what many nonprofits are doing to thank and cultivate donors.
A déjà vu thank-you
One of my alter egos, Dee Dee Rae, sent Paralyzed Veterans of America a gift in response to an acquisition package she received after she subscribed to the National Enquirer a few years ago. In response to the $7 cash gift she tucked into a PVA security-screen return envelope this past New Year’s Eve, on Feb. 17, Dee Dee Rae received what initially looks like a typical PVA appeal.
However, inside the plain kraft carrier is a personalized notepad topped with a reply slip that has a “Gift Acknowledgment” headline and a circled note: “Many thanks for your recent gift of $7.” Below the reply slip is a sheet of personalized mailing labels and, below that, a thank-you message on the first sheet of the notepad.
A classic déjà vu of the original offer, the thank-you doubles both as an acknowledgment and a prompt for the next modest donation — a winning formula for this type of small-gift fundraising program.
A hefty thank-you
Earthjustice’s thank-you arrived on Jan. 17 in a 10-inch-by-15-inch manila envelope. Inside I found a very nice, roomy and durable canvas tote bag, with a tag sewn into an inside seam stamped, “MADE IN THE USA” that I was very pleased to see. A quality product that will last for many years, if not decades, it will remind me every time I use it that Earthjustice is doing good work and that I helped.
In addition to a personalized letter, the package includes several inserts and a copy of the organization’s quarterly newsletter, rich with substantive content on recent accomplishments and environmental news.
This is not an inexpensive package by any means, but its literal and figurative heft makes it worth the expense. There’s a lot for a new donor to experience inside that enriches and extends the pleasure of having given — a sure inroad to acquiring an additional gift. So … standing ovation, Earthjustice!
A personal thank-you
For about a decade, I had the privilege of writing fundraising letters for Habitat for Humanity’s founder, the late Millard Fuller, when he was the organization’s president. When he began the Fuller Center for Housing, I wasn’t surprised to receive a direct-mail prospect from his new venture. Millard was a direct-marketing veteran long before he decided to live his faith and eliminate poverty housing.
And he was a stickler about immediately acknowledging donations, no excuses.
So I was not surprised that his was the first thank-you I received this year; nor was I surprised that he took the time to write a personal letter even though I am not a major donor. Millard set the standard for excellence in donor acknowledgment. He had a keen understanding that if you want another donation, you’d best thank your donor for the one you just got.
And since I seem to be stuck in a perpetual dance with the No Fly nonprofit’s acquisition control in the Direct-Mail Twilight Zone, if I decide it gets one more chance, my next gift isn’t going in alone. I’ll still mail it in the prospect control BRE so it travels through regular channels — but it’ll be accompanied by a letter stipulating that my gift is made in Millard’s memory. FS
Kimberly Seville is a creative strategist and freelance copywriter. Reach her at email@example.com