Take the Time to Say Thanks-It’s Not Too Late

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Take the Time to Say Thanks - It's Not Too Late
by Nancy E. Peterman, Partner


“If it is Thanksgiving, it must be Christmas.” I heard this on the radio as I was preparing a 15 pound turkey for our traditional Thanksgiving meal. Seeing all the Christmas decorations in stores and restaurants, and hearing Bing Crosby’s mellifluous rendition of some holiday tune in the elevators, I recognized that we had gone straight from Halloween to Christmas. What happened to Thanksgiving? We have skipped from collecting candy to collecting presents. Have we forgotten the season of giving thanks?

Several of the university donors I have been meeting recently have said something similar regarding the cycle of solicitation and stewardship. “As soon as I get a receipt of my most recent gift, there is additional request.” One said, “The acknowledgment letters are even starting to sound like another solicitation.” In our efforts to be more effective and productive, multiple requests each year are the norm, and partly because our constituencies are responding accordingly with several gifts each year.

One donor mentioned that he thought his particular university did an exceptional job at stewarding his gifts. When I asked him why he thought this, he mentioned several ways the staff reached out:

  • Firstly, and most important, a receipt letter was received within a week of the gift.
  • The acknowledgment letter that followed was always personalized.
  • Someone from the university phoned him at a later time just to say thanks.

All three of these occurred before he received the next request for funding. He also spoke about the times a major gifts officer called upon him to ask his opinion, or share news in advance of a public announcement.

Even if our society (with some help from retail) has moved beyond a season of thanks, make use of the time of year to reach out to your donors to express an additional message of gratitude. Electronic media-emails, electronic cards and videos-provide a number of options. And if you are late in your planning, and of limited resources, engage your staff and volunteers to make “thank- you” calls over the next few weeks.