Our Ask An Expert series features real questions answered by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, our very own Fundraising Coach, also known as Charity Clairity.

Today’s question comes from a fundraiser who isn’t sure automating monthly donor receipting a good idea.

Dear Charity Clairity,

For years we have changed out our receipt text monthly so that our monthly donors get a “fresh” thank you letter/receipt with every gift. Now we’re wondering if that’s overkill (and it takes a lot of time since we have multiple ways we accept gifts beyond just opening the mail!). We’re looking for a faster, smarter, automated way of doing things with fewer people. What do you think of automated receipt messaging?

Thanking takes too much time

Dear Too Much Time,

Yes, thanking takes time. But it’s probably the most important fundraising strategy you have.

That’s right! Too many fundraisers have been conditioned to focus the lion’s share of their time on considering ways to ask, not thank.  But I often say, “If you want gifts, you must give them.”

Thank you is a gift you give to your donor. It makes your donor feel good. It reassures them you’re putting their contribution to work as they intended. It makes them feel heroic when you point out the impact of their steadfast support.

So, rather than trying to figure out how to speed this process up, what about figuring out how to slow it down a bit?

In other words, take some time to be thoughtful and personal with the quality of your acknowledgements rather than focusing on the quantity.

With regard to thanking monthly donors, I don’t think they need a thank you per se every single month.  You don’t receive a monthly thank you, or receipt, when you subscribe to a magazine or newspaper do you? As long as your first thank you, made at the time of the donor’s commitment, is an awesome one, the donor should have no expectation of a monthly acknowledgement.

For this reason, I advocate sending first-time monthly donors a ‘welcome package.’ It doesn’t need to include tangible gifts. Rather, it should simply let these donors know they are part of a special club (which is why it’s recommended you give your monthly donor group a name). People like to be part of an ‘insiders’ group! Things you might include are:

  • Welcome letter
  • List of volunteer and/or advocacy opportunities
  • Invitation to free upcoming events
  • Testimonials from beneficiaries of their giving
  • Photos of beneficiaries of their giving
  • Thank you note from a beneficiary
  • Token gift like a magnet or bookmark.

It’s fine to send an additional explicit thank you letter or email a few times during the course of the year that acknowledges the amazing impact of their recurring gift. Beyond that, monthly donors can receive all the ‘touches’ and ‘moves’ you send to ALL your donors. Hopefully, all of these donor communications have gratitude oozing throughout.

It’s probably a good idea not to think of these thank you’s as “receipts,” automated or otherwise.  The more personal the messaging comes across, the better.  If you can manage to work in a phone call at some point during the course of the year, that would be awesome. Just a pure thank you that lets the donor know how special they are.  If you don’t have enough staff to make these calls, this is a great volunteer opportunity. Leaving a voice message is great if you don’t reach them, just remember to leave contact information should they wish to return your call or if they ever have any questions. (You can grab a free Thank You Calls E-Book + Script here.)

I hope this helps you spend your time wisely, while thanking your monthly donors well!

Charity Clairity

Have a question for our Fundraising Coach?

Please submit your question here. Remember, there are no stupid questions! If you need an answer, it’s likely someone else does too. So help your colleagues by asking away. Please use a pseudonym, like “Too Much Time” did, if you prefer to be anonymous.

Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.
Claire Axelrad