Picture 7

One of the most dangerous things you can do to any appeal is add a ‘we don’t value you enough to thank you’ tick box to your donation form.

They seem to offer supporter choice and some donors appear to like them, but to my mind they simply tell the donor that only egotists expect to be thanked. And that’s not particularly nice.

You’ve probably seen the type of thing I’m referring to…

We try to make money go as far as possible so we only acknowledge donations when specifically requested to do so. If you would like an acknowledgement please tick this box.

They are dangerous because they can destroy the relationship before it has a chance to start.

Yes, people give because they want to help, but unfortunately the charity / donor relationship is a little more complicated than that.

Donors have a whole range of needs and the process of thanking is as important to them as the process of asking.

The key message behind any thank you is one of value. In a transaction with a donor, it is a chance for the charity to say “we value you“.

And showing a donor that they are valued is an incredibly powerful step towards getting further gifts.

The impact of thanking was recently demonstrated by Adam M. Grant and Francesco Gino in a series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Their experiments are recounted on Psyblog

“In the first study 69 participants were asked to provide feedback to a fictitious student called ‘Eric’ on his cover letter for a job application. After sending their feedback through by email, they got a reply from Eric asking for more help with another cover letter.

The twist is that half of them got a thankful reply from Eric and the other half a neutral reply. The experimenters wanted to see what effect this would have on participants’ motivation to give Eric any more help.

As you might expect, those who were thanked by Eric were more willing to provide further assistance. Indeed the effect of ‘thank you’ was quite substantial: while only 32% of participants receiving the neutral email helped with the second letter, when Eric expressed his gratitude, this went up to 66%.”

The researchers then looked at the wider impact of thanking. Would Eric’s thanks motivate people to help others? To find out, they introduced Stephen, another student in need of help with a cover letter…

“In a second study, Eric’s thanks (or lack of thanks in the control condition) was followed, a day later, by an email from ‘Steven’ asking for similar help. The percentage who offered to help Steven was 25% when they had received no gratitude from Eric, but this shot up to 55% when they had been thanked.”

It’s an interesting finding, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that it transferred to people’s attitudes to charity.

If it does, those organisations that save a few pounds by not thanking donors might not just be damaging their own income, they could also be hurting the rest of us too.

Picture credit: Fenng