Hilary Blume: Why a simple 'thank you' will go a long way when you receive a donation

Basic etiquette yeilds results, says the founder and director of the Charities Advisory Trust

Hilary Blume, founder and director, Charities Advisory Trust
Hilary Blume, founder and director, Charities Advisory Trust

My granddaughter Mia and I very much enjoy an award-winning American children's book called Please Say Please!, which teaches you that 'please' helps you to get what you want and that saying 'thank you' is also a very useful phrase when you are dealing with people.

Unfortunately, it appears that many fundraisers working for UK charities have not had the benefit of reading this book.

We recently sent donations from Card Aid to 218 charities, and only 117 managed to say thank you. I'm not expecting a bespoke thank-you letter - but at least an acknowledgement of receipt would be good.

Some of the amounts were very small and, on economic grounds, perhaps the receiving charities might not have felt they warranted a reply. But what about the charities that received donations of thousands of pounds - what's their excuse?

These were nearly all national charities with significant numbers of staff. They manage to find time to write asking for money in the first place, so surely they have time to jot down a few words of thanks? Saying thank you should be considered to be an integral part of fundraising. Too many charities fawn over us when asking for money and lose interest once they have got the cheque. It's like a Victorian melodrama, where the villain is all flattery to get his evil way and then spurns his victim.

New staff who are working in a charity for the first time often remark on this absence of thanks, particularly when they are given the task of chasing charities for receipts. We have to remind them, and ourselves, that we are working to help the beneficiaries, not charity staff.

But the section in Please Say Please! that Mia and I enjoy the most is the bit on saying sorry. It says sorry helps, but only if you mean it.

That's a very appropriate message that should be more widely taught to bankers, parliamentarians and perhaps also the 101 charities that have not yet managed to thank us for the donations we worked hard to get for them.

To finish, here's a thought that we might all like to reflect on. A father and son were walking through an area of terrible deprivation. The houses were inadequate, and there were sick and disabled people living rough. There was sewage overflowing from the gutters.

The son turned to his father and said: "This is terrible. How could God let this happen and do nothing?" The father answered: "God did do something. He sent you."


1. The effect of saying thank you has been tested. In 2008 a split test campaign by the Thistle Foundation found that revenue from a group of donors who had received thank-you calls for a first donation was 41 per cent higher than gifts from a group that hadn't.

2. Cancer Research UK apologised last year after an elderly couple who made a £76,000 donation did not receive a thank-you letter. The charity said the letter had gone missing and sent another one.

3. Fundraising experts believe a thank-you note should be sent alone, not accompanied by a request to give. According to research from 2005, more than 80 per cent of donors are offended by this technique.

4. Some charities have been criticised for thanking donors. The NSPCC was accused of wasting money by the Daily Express in 2007 after it sent thank-you brochures to 2,000 donors.


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