When is a thank you not a thank you?
Some time ago I received a thank you from a charity for my ongoing support. The letter prompted me to write an article on LinkedIn and I got some great comments so I thought it was time for an update piece.
While the first sentence of the letter said "Thank you....." as I’m sure many of you had guessed, it was not a pure message of thanks. The real purpose came towards the end when I'm being asked to increase my support. To be honest, I felt annoyed really quickly and it gave me reason to explore why I felt so angry about it.
So why was I so cross?
Working in the charity sector myself, I know only too well how important it is to raise funds and keep them coming in but I'm also keenly aware that as a sector we sometimes shoot ourselves in our proverbial foot. To me this is a classic example of the latter.
This letter is not a thank you at all and the “ask” devalues the thank you message itself - everything leads up to the "ask". So I'm left with only the ask and a feeling of guilt if I don't upgrade, pressure to do so and some anger because I don’t like to be manipulated. If you want to thank someone, then thank them, don't add on requests otherwise the gratitude part feels fake even if it wasn’t meant to be. This is the same whether you are a person, business or charity. Integrity is essential on a personal level as well as on an organisational one.
I also feel that this form of selling is just outdated. I know that it gets results but there are softer ways to engage people and while numerically they may not be as effective, the hard sales approach just gives all charities a bad name because we get seen as always begging for more cash and not always respecting the real people that are supporting us.
What did others think?
From the comments I received on the original piece, there were some great observations from readers. Professional fundraisers expressed disappointment that I felt the way I did but understood why. Their suggestions were that separating thank you messages from the impact and encouragement messages to give more was key. “Genuine appreciation, without added expectation, goes a long way” was one of the other replies.
I have always felt that as far as supporters are concerned, charities are in the business of selling happiness. Making the world a better place by funding good causes to do what they do is something that people do to make a positive difference. This is a common factor when people who are typically the happiest people on our planet are surveyed. When you get confirmation that you and other supporters are helping to make a tangible difference with your support, it completes the loop. The thank you is more about the confirmation that change has been made with your help than just a pure recognition of a donation.
The follow up asks for additional support can also be about asking people to help raise awareness to others or ask friends and family to join in as well as increase donations.
So there we are, a thank you is a real thank you when is shows “genuine appreciation without added expectation”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.