Online Donation? Snail Mail a Thank-You!

Vol. 13 No. 8

development eletter Vol13 No8 oldfashionmail

Seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, the donor made the gift online, and it stands to reason that he or she would be comfortable continuing to communicate screen-to-screen rather than face-to-face. Often, your online donation program generates a thank-you email the instant the payment clears, seemingly making additional need for contact obsolete.

But wait a second! Let’s consider what the goal is (or should be) with this new donor. You want to build a relationship with this person. Now that the ball’s in your court, you have an opportunity here to strengthen the tenuous initial connection with a little effort, attention, and the lick of a stamp.

Auto Thank-Yous

One of the biggest problem with automatically generated thank-you emails is that they are, well, automatically generated. We’re far enough into the Information Age that donors who give online understand the mechanisms that trigger emails. When they receive a software-generated email after giving, they know that the payment cleared and the message was sent as a cybernetic reflex from an unthinking entity.

This means that, no matter how well written the email, the donor essentially views the automatic online thank-you as nothing more than a receipt.

The Case for Physical Thank-Yous

Thank-yous should be an investment, just as the donor’s gift is an investment in the mission of your school. As such, snail mail thank-yous show an attention to and appreciation of the donor’s gift that makes him or her feel like a valued, included member of the school community.

After all, physical thank-yous require someone to write or type the donor’s name, a signature, the stuffing of an envelope, and the licking of a stamp. While you may have a system that eliminates a lot of the labor costs involved in physical thank-yous, there’s still the impression a donor receives that you and your office went out of your way to thank him or her. That effort will speak just as loudly as the words you chose to write in that note.

Furthermore, consider the state of your own email inbox. Email is free. Consequently, how many emails do you ignore or delete outright? You have to, in order to shrink the flood of junk, spam, and trivial notes into something manageable. (By the way, we’re grateful that you didn’t delete our newsletter out of hand!)

But traditional paper mail… Now, that’s another story altogether. Paper letters and thank-yous require money to travel from your office to the donor’s home. That’s a monetary investment you’ve decided to make in that donor, and a route that fewer and fewer institutions choose to take.

Now, your online donors may only be giving a small amount of money—right now. It may seem like it’s economically and organizationally impractical to physically mail thank-yous to donors who gave maybe $20, or even $50. But, you never know when today’s small donor become one of your school’s biggest supporters.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 12 No. 10 Seven Video Thank-Yous From Private School Development Offices
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 9 No. 4 Online Giving: A Tool to Maximize the Relationship

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 6 Influencing Upward: Skills for the Development Director

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