Whoops! None of Our Year-end Donors Were Thanked

Dear Readers:

I have two things to share with you. One is that RIGHT NOW is a great time to subscribe or renew your subscription to the Journal because you also get a year long sub to Nonprofit Quarterly for just $69! Sign up today and tell your friends. The information in these two magazines will get you through some pretty tough times, and you will enjoy reading it!

AND: this month, I asked my wife and business partner (who is the same person) to answer the Dear Kim that appears below. Stephanie Roth is a long time fundraiser, former publisher of the Journal, and has a soft spot in her heart for organizations that discover major screw ups like the one described in this letter. Thanks, Stephanie!

Dear Kim,

I am the chair of the board of an organization with a big problem.  We had a great year-end appeal and a lot of people gave money.  As we are getting ready to put together our spring appeal, I have learned that none of them were thanked.  Several board members said they had run into people who wondered if we had gotten their gifts, but I (stupidly) didn’t think much about it.  It turns out the development intern just didn’t get around to it, and because we are transitioning to a new executive director, this fell through the cracks.  Anyway, I have no real good excuse and it is mostly my fault.  But what should we do now?


Dear Yikes,

I first want to say that although it’s a problem that thank you notes were not sent to the folks who contributed to your organization at the end of last year, the fact that you’re taking it seriously and wanting to make things right with your donors is important too. We all make mistakes and acknowledging it and not making excuses goes a long way.

Here is what I’d suggest for next steps:

Better late than never is my philosophy with thanking donors, so as soon as possible send thank you notes to everyone who donated. Apologize for the delay in thanking them without making excuses, and then include a brief paragraph that describes some of the things the organization was able to do with their support. It’s important that you do this as soon as possible and certainly before you send another appeal.

In addition, with a new executive director coming on, you have an opportunity for them to reach out to everyone to introduce themselves, saying how much they’re looking forward to meeting and getting to know the organization’s donors and acknowledging that thank you’s were not sent out in a timely way. The message this sends to your donors is that the organization takes transparency and honesty seriously and cares about how its supporters are treated. This will go a long way to repairing any damage done.

Then make sure systems are in place to insure this never happens again. Donors will forgive you once but not more often than that.

Good luck!

~Stephanie Roth