Anna Taylor: The importance of genuine gratitude

The best fundraisers know the value of thanking donors, writes our columnist

Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor

In fundraising, it is sometimes too easy to fall into sales and marketing-speak and forget what makes the task really special. The best fundraisers are genuinely passionate about the work of their organisations and appreciative of the support of all their donors, even those who are able to occasionally send only a few pounds. Charitable support is not simply a commercial transaction - it depends on individuals caring enough about a cause to do something practical to help.

Tangible difference

What fundraisers do - connecting those in need of help with those able to give it - is wonderful. They don't just have a very tangible effect on the lives of beneficiaries - they are also able to have a positive impact on the lives of donors by empowering them to do something really worthwhile.

Fundraisers help supporters realise that by sharing the resources available to them, however limited, they can play their part in making the world a better place.

Perhaps the most important letters fundraisers write are those that say "thank you". These can inspire people, enthuse them and help to build an understanding of a cause and a commitment to it that can last a lifetime. How crazy, then, that tests continue to show many charities don't bother to acknowledge smaller gifts. It is also an enormous pity that thank-you letters are too often dashed off in dull and mechanical fashion.

Enriching relationships

In the short term, personal letters, emails, calls and spending time face-to-face with supporters might seem expensive compared with sending bland mail-merged notes of thanks. But getting to know your charity's supporters as individuals can be enormously enriching for all concerned.

Charitable donors are often great people, with big hearts. I will always remember a supporter of one of my former charities, a 90-year-old lady who went out of her way to help others, right up to the week of her death.

Why not review the last few thank-you letters you've sent? Would they have helped the giver to realise they'd done something really special? Would they have enabled the recipient to understand how their donation will be used and to feel more connected to its impact? Would the donor be a little bit better informed about the relevant issues than they were before they gave, so they could discuss them with friends and family and their passion for the cause could grow?

Nurturing philanthropy can have society-wide benefits, helping to counter-balance pressures toward greater individualism and consumerism. As fundraisers we have the opportunity to get to know some wonderful people, gently encourage philanthropy through our work and often help to bring about life-changing transformations, which is a real privilege.

Anna Taylor is a freelance fundraiser, writer and researcher and a former UK director of Child in Need India

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