Ah, a warm business-like welcome

A gift from a first-time donor to most charities sets in motion a process that should be more or less automatic, and ideally, well-thought out. Our KMA whitemail experiment produced very uneven welcomes.

(In the table below I have compiled the responses.)

But rather than complain about lackluster responses, I am focusing on four that stood out.

The top of the heap for me was the major Canadian university. You can read about that here.


Then there is the environmental organization, mentioned here because their response was so comprehensive. I made an online gift and got the expected instant acknowledgement. Then I received a package in the mail which included a personalized welcome and thanks, and material that restated the case, outlined the monthly giving club, the legacy club, gifts over $1000 club and roles for volunteer/advocates. All of it was well done, but it was a bit like walking into a big department store – it’s all there but how do I find what fits?

One I truly admired was from the charity I have categorized as “Social service - women – local.” I applaud their attention to detail and precise outline of what I could expect.  

To start, it addressed both my wife and me, and her name was first on the letter – as it is on the cheque we submitted. This is a pet peeve of my wife, that charity communications often ignore her existence and role. This group paid close attention.

The letter also named the amount of the gift, noted the enclosed program brochure, and stated a simple thank you.

There followed one paragraph stating their case for support – what they do.

Next came two valuable and important paragraphs. The first told me what to expect. The second told me how to engage.

We will keep you informed about our work through our ______ newsletter which contains inspirational stores and program updates as well as important information on upcoming events. Please visit our website _____ for the latest ___ news.

If you have any questions about the work of ____ or would like to get more involved, please contact (name, title, phone and email provided.)

A “Sincerely” and an authentic personal signature from the CEO finished the letter.

It’s simple and direct. It’s great. Because the letter and brochure came very quickly and included the receipt, and the envelope was stamped “tax receipt enclosed,” it checks all the boxes: warm, professional, efficient, clear, personal and informative. The brief thank-you phone call I received shortly afterwards sealed the deal – the people running that development program are top drawer.

Similarly, I applaud the charity we categorize as “Hospital foundation - regional catchment.”

Their tone is a bit more sentimental, and they welcome you to the “family.”  They include a refrigerator magnet, “and hope you display it proudly.” Interesting, the enclosed brochure is more about donors than about the work they do. The letter includes the receipt, and the envelope is stamped “Your welcome package is enclosed.”

The tone of each example is different but the fundamentals are firmly in play. The goal should be to communicate that someone in authority knows about the gift, and to cultivate the donor for a second gift. These are exemplary.

Next: Asking for the second gift


Acknowledging the first gift and welcoming the donor


* = initial gift made online

# mailings

(18 mos.)

# emails

First gift-acknowledged & donor welcome

* International aid - faith-based



Instant acknowledgement by email; next appeal by email 2-3 weeks later; receipt by mail a month later - with prayer card

* Social service-broad mandate-national-faith based



2 instant brief emails, one with receipt; then 3 month later - "welcome" appeal, newsletter, and monthly donor buck slip

* Environmental



Instant online receipt, followed a couple weeks later by a "welcome kit" by mail. Included personalized welcome and thanks, and material that restated the case, outlined monthly gift club, the legacy club, gifts over $1000 club and roles for volunteer/advocates

Hospital foundation - regional catchment



Speedy receipt; welcome package using a "joining the family" reference; included a small brochure and a refrigerator magnet

Social service - urban need - local- faith based



Receipt, thank you, buck-slip bequest promo; warm handwritten PS

Major comprehensive research university



Rapid receipt with tear off 3-line thank-you; included legacy leaflet

First gift collateral mini-pack mid-January (six weeks after gift)

Excellent personal phone call mid-January with no ask

Social service - women - local



Warm thank you with receipt; clearly first-gift response. Gave a contact name and number for more info and a small general brochure. Followed up by a very good phone call, with no ask.

Cultural - regional profile



Warm thank you within 10 days, saying they were happy to add me as a friend. Included a discount gift certificate for ticket purchase. No other information. Receipt came 5 weeks later in mid-January, likely part of annual receipt process.

Medical research- start up



Both arrived same day - receipt from one source and a hand-signed "Happy Holidays" card. But that was the end.

Cultural - national profile



Letter received within 10 days of gift: implied welcome but no mention of a first gift; gift assigned to an endowment fund. The only enclosure was receipt. Nothing since.

Social service-children - local



Receipt only - Feb 28-(3+ months) no letter or other communications since

 *Social service-broad mandate- national



Both emails came instantly, one with receipt attached. Very terse and generic.

Letter came 17 months later.