I was reminded of a mantra I used with a charity a couple of years ago – to be prompt in thanking them for their help.  The phrase I used was to “thank before you bank.”  They were to send the acknowledgment of the gift before the check was even presented to the bank for deposit.  It affected cash flow, but it taught a valuable lesson.

Before I urged them to this action, thank you letters went out months afterward, if at all.  One local corporation provided a truckload of gently-used computers for the organization’s school, but three months later had yet to receive acknowledgment that the donation was received and shipped to the overseas location.  The company’s generosity was stifled for lack of ten minutes to write a note and the cost of a postage stamp.

In Fundraising for Social Change, Kim Klein recounts the value of a hand-written note:

…a woman who had read about the group’s victories in the newspaper sent $25.  She did not receive a thank you note.  She did, however, receive the group’s newsletter and she heard about the group from time to time.  A year after making her gift she receive a form letter requesting a renewal.  She threw it away.

Sometime later, this woman learned that a friend of hers was a volunteer in the collective. … The one-time donor replied …  “They show no regard for their supporters.  But since you are in the group, I’ll give them something.”  She sent $15.

… in response to this $15 gift, I sent this woman a scrawled three-line thank you note:  “Thanks for your gift of $15.  It’s a help financially and also a great morale boost.  We’ll keep in touch.”

Two weeks later, this woman sent $100.  Again I scrawled a thank-you note with an extra line about her generosity.  A few months later she sent $1,500.”*

As this Thanksgiving weekend draws to a close, it’s worth mentioning again to thank every donation.  The $10 now may only be a token from a casual donor, but your response may make a donor for life.

Fundraising for Social Change by Kim Klein. Published by Wiley_Default, 2006. ISBN 0787984558, 9780787984557 (560 pages) on-line version here.