A Common Fundraising Mistake and How to Avoid It

Jul 8, 2021Donors, Fundraising, Leadership, Nonprofits, Philanthropy

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Nonprofits, here’s a common fundraising mistake and how to avoid it.

I heard a donor once say to an audience of fundraisers, “Don’t send me another mug.”

With that, she said, “An invitation to the office to see what you are doing is far more persuasive to a donor, so they say, “I feel good about this gift.”

Swag is overrated.


A Common Fundraising Mistake

Interestingly, we received a mug in the mail from a nonprofit we gave $500 as a year-end gift.

Surprisingly, there was NO note – nothing inside the box but a mug with the organization’s name on it.

I could only conclude we received the mug because of the $500 gift we made.

Additionally, we never received a personal thank you from anyone at this organization.

It has been six months since we made the gift, and I’m not sure we’ll give again.

This is a relatively small organization – they receive about $100,000 in gifts from individuals each year.

A Common Fundraising Mistakes Message

No doubt, this kind of response sends the message. . .

“You are not important to us.”

“$500 is not a big deal.”

“I checked the box to send you a mug because that’s what we do with $500 gifts.”

Needless to say, they are missing opportunities with people testing the waters in giving to their organization.

Besides, why would anyone give again to this organization with a response like this?

There’s a lack of appreciation.

Without question, donors are not valued.

We weren’t.


How to Avoid a Common Fundraising Mistake

Notably, a lesson learned from this story is:

Make your donors feel valued and appreciated.

How do you do that?

  • Write a personal note.
  • At the very least, add a personal message at the bottom of your acknowledgement letter.
  • Shoot a text message saying, “We received your gift, and we are over the moon grateful for your support.”
  • Best of all, pick up the phone and say thank-you.

In other words, respond appropriately to that donor.



In summary, you know what to do: Make sure a thank-you process is in place, so your donors feel valued and appreciated.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].


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