Charity donors are happy to receive communications from charities if they are of good quality, according to Simon Scriver, head of fundraising at the Irish sexual abuse charity One in Four.
Speaking at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands last week, Scriver said that donors were also likely to say they did not wish to be thanked, even though they often appreciated it when they were.
He said a thoughtful, personal-seeming thank you communication could generate extra funds for the charity, even if it did not contain a fundraising ask.
"If you ask donors do they want to be contacted for a thank you, they will say ‘no, save the money, I don’t want to be thanked’, which is rubbish," he said. "Everyone likes to be thanked.
"It’s not that donors don’t want to be contacted; it’s that they don’t want to receive poor quality communications, letters or emails."
Scriver and his co-presenter Jen Love, partner at the fundraising agency Agents of Good, said charities needed to ensure donor communications connected with a donor’s values and emotions and made donors "fall and stay in love" with the charity’s work.
They said thank-you messages should be "passionate" and contain what they called "delighters" – unexpected extras to make the donor feel special and connected to a human being within the charity. This could include personalised thank-you gifts or simply handwritten additions to standard letters, they said.
Love told delegates that many charities told her it would be too expensive to thank donors in a personal way, or to thank them at all.
But Scriver said: "You know what's more expensive than thanking donors? Acquiring them."
He also argued that charities should resist the temptation to thank only high-value donors, pointing out that many people could be prompted to give more by a sincere thank you and charities should consider who cares the most about their organisation, as well as who gives the most.