Though it seems like Christmas was only last week, we are, in fact, coming up on Valentine's Day shortly.  For many charities, early January is also fiscal year-end and a time where the gift processing managers are hurrying to record and receipt and account for a rush of donations that were made at the end of December so that the books can be closed from the previous year.

It got me thinking about the similarity between a donation pledge card and a Valentine's Day card. They're both small, they're usually an odd size, and they're both an expression of love. Let's pause for a moment and talk about the expression of love part; that person chose to skip buying a Starbucks coffee, pass up a chance to pad their retirement account, included you on the list of Christmas and birthday presents they plan to buy this year - it's possible to imagine any number of situations, but the point is that that little card is what they used to express their love for your work and their financial sacrifice in doing so. 

But sometimes, it can seem like the relationship between donors and their charities are a one-way love affair!

From the charity perspective, maybe it's time to focus on saying, "I love you" back to donors this Valentine's Day! 

There are a bunch of good discussions happening right now about writing better thank-you letters. My addition to the conversation would be to think about writing these from a "love letter" or "love song" perspective. Skip the impersonal and start with "I" or "we" and make the tone about "you're awesome, I admire everything about you, and without you, life would not be as bright for me..." - of course the tone would be tied into the core mission of the organization.

Gail Perry has a great tip sheet on "How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter" here.

An example of something that didn't work for me this week was the letter I received from one charity where I'm a monthly donor. It had a somewhat apologetic tone, but it was basically a bill letting me know that they would be automatically increasing my monthly direct withdrawal unless I wrote in to opt-out. There was no BRE included. The worst part? I still haven't received a donation receipt for my 2011 contributions or a thank you letter or phone call.

Kinda left me feeling like our relationship is pretty transactional and not like I want to take this date home to meet my mom or dad!

Ask Better?

One idea that I had is to pick a small group - your volunteers, your board members, 25 of your first-time donors - and to send them a Valentine this year. If it's a bit of a less-formal group, maybe you could even use a set of those cards that kids usually exchange at school. Otherwise, maybe a plain note card with your logo and a heart surrounding it on the front?

Dear Ron, 

Sending our love and gratitude to you - thank you for choosing to be a volunteer with us. Life wouldn't be as rosy without you!

Happy Valentine's Day, 

Julia at Save the Unicorns Intl
1/21/2012 12:29:05 am

Christina...this is an amazing post with a message that is very rarely conveyed to our sector. Love affairs that are not reciprocal never last! Thank you for expressing it so well. I will be sharing!

Love Heather

Chrsitina Attard
1/21/2012 12:37:34 am

Thanks for visiting, Heather, and thanks for your encouraging comment!

I think we're connected on LinkedIn if you'd ever like to chat in "real life" about this.

Love Christina

1/22/2012 11:38:34 pm

Love it Christina! Many charities send out Seasons Greetings holiday cards, but they often, IMO, miss opportunities to really shine (and show their love) by sending out cards at Thanksgiving (how appropriate!) or Valentines Day. Check out the free download of Lifetime Donor Attraction at for more ideas.


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