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 is pressed for time but wants to thank donors personally.

Dear Charity Clairity,

Is an immediate e-mailed or texted thank you okay instead of a phone call? I hear a lot about the value of phone calls, but we really can’t afford the time.

— Efficiency is My Mantra

Dear Efficiency,

Efficiency is great, but make being donor-centered your mantra. There’s plenty of research showing donors appreciate phone calls and will give more after they receive one. Yet if you know your donor would appreciate an email or text more than a phone call, then by all means go for it! 

One of the reasons people make phone calls is they make you stand out. Because in 2019 they’re relatively uncommon. They show you’re willing to go the extra mile, and they’re considered more personal than a mailed thank you.

That being said, you want to connect with your donor. And many folks will no longer answer their phone. Do you have those donors? If you have a lot of Boomers and older as donors, then perhaps the phone call is your best bet. It gives you the opportunity to have a conversation, and maybe learn more about what floats your donor’s boat. Even if you do this only for a subset of donors (e.g., donors who give $500+), this is an opportunity not to be missed. If you have a majority of younger supporters, then email and text may work better for you. And, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Try one method. If you don’t connect, try another.

Also, don’t hesitate to leave a message! After all, you’ve gone to the trouble of placing the call. Don’t waste it. Something brief, warm and filled with pure gratitude can work wonders. Try: “Hi! I’m Claire calling from AAA Charity. We received your recent gift and just want you to know how much it truly means to us and to everyone who will be helped. We don’t take your support for granted, and just wanted to let you know that. Once again, a BIG THANK YOU! If you ever have a question, please feel free to reach out directly to… (ideally to you, but you can offer someone else’s name, title and contact email + phone).

Remember, effective relationship building is not about checking things off a list. It’s about getting a result. That result should be something that makes your donor feel good.

Because you made the effort to build a deeper connection. Do what works.

Charity Clairity

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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.