We have met the Wizard of Oz, and not only is he just another poor slob, he wears no clothes!

Here is a ‘must read’ blog post by Chuck English at Marketing That Works … regarding Thank You’s.

Chuck started out by posing what I know he expected would be a question with a very straightforward and conclusive answer:

“Does saying thank you really make a difference? Do you know of a research study that proves that thanking donors will lead to further or increased donations?”

Now, how many times has it been drilled into you that OF COURSE you must acknowledge contributions … AND THE SOONER THE BETTER!!

So, like Chuck, I’ll be you would have expected his e-mailbox to fill up overnight with reports describing all sorts of actual testing that confirmed this proposition.


It appears no one has any empirical evidence that thanking donors, promptly or otherwise, makes the slightest difference in terms of lifting future giving (or at least no one is sharing it).

As Chuck reports in his terrific article, various of us cite simple human nature (sure, everyone likes to be thanked, don’t they), or survey research where donors say they appreciate being appreciated or say they would be more likely to give again if well-thanked.

Indeed Chuck’s original query was prompted by survey results he saw where 52% said that not receiving a thank you would not decrease their livelihood of giving in the future. How many of us have watched focus groups where donors say: “I don’t want them wasting my donation on a thank you letter!”?

But so far, no one has proffered Chuck hard evidence that donors thanked give more than donors not thanked!

C’mon all you consultants out there … confess now.

All these years you’ve been telling clients how important it is to acknowledge gifts, promptly. But perhaps the only thing certain is that this advice helps generate more creative and mailing fees for all those thank you and welcome packages!

So what empirical evidence is that advice based on? Any?

Or is it just based upon ‘common sense’? The same common sense that might ‘establish’ that donors are busy and will respond better to shorter letters? Or that $35 a year donors won’t make bequests?

Chuck, it looks like you caught us all naked, or at least with our pants down!

But I’m disappointed that despite the shocking absence of evidence, even you caved in with this conclusion:

“I’d bet that organizations that give serious thought to the experience of being thanked see a great lift in gift frequency and amounts.”

In other words, “We don’t know if it matters … let’s just do it better anyway and hope for the best.”

Just when I was about to give you an Agitator raise!



This article was posted in: Communications, Direct mail, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Nonprofit management, Research.
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