Early in my practice I started working with a client who was new to fundraising. She had come from a successful career in the for-profit world, but working with major gift donors was unfamiliar territory. I could tell immediately, however, that she was going to be great at this.
First, she made it clear right away that she was open to and eager for coaching. She knew what she didn’t know and was looking forward to learning more.
Second, I could tell she knew more than she knew she knew. In her lovely southern lilt, she said to me in our first meeting, “I really have never had any training in how to do this. So, I figured the best I could do for now is to follow my grandmother’s advice: be courteous and send lots of thank you notes.”
Be courteous. And send lots of thank you notes. We go to seminars, watch webinars, build stewardship policies and create whole departments responsible for donor engagement. And our grandmothers had it right all along: be courteous and send lots of thank you notes.
I am shocked how many organizations, and how many professional fundraisers, fail to follow this simple wisdom. This basic concept–be courteous and thank people–was at the heart of how most of our grandmothers interacted in the world, in whatever way was specific and appropriate for their culture. For my New England grandmother, there was ALWAYS time to send the comforting get-well card to an ailing neighbor. It was part of the normal routine to send a thank you note to the hostess after the lovely tea party. And heaven forbid you should fail to send a thank you note for the thoughtful birthday or holiday gift.
My grandmother headed up many church and civic committees in her village on Cape Cod, and when she passed away her little desk still sat there with its pens, stamps and stacks of note cards ready to be sent out to invite people to meetings, ask them to pitch in, and thank them for their service. She never went to an AFP volunteer management training, she never had to rely on a donor relations manager, or write a stewardship plan. She was courteous and sent lots of thank you notes. I think in 2018 I will make even more of an effort to follow her example.