Make Each Donor Feel Special

Make Each Donor Feel Special

By David Allen, Development for Conservation

Yesterday was December 17th. I marked the day, because there are exactly 14 days left in the charitable giving year. So this post will serve as a reminder that these two weeks are NOT weeks you should be taking off.

Just as an accountant would never dream of taking the first two weeks in April for vacation, fundraisers and Executive Directors should not be thinking of taking any more than Christmas day off in these two weeks.

Suck it up folks. This is the best time of the year!

In December 2015, I wrote a post about how to use your time the last two weeks of the year. And I liked it well enough to repost it last year. I won’t do that to you again, but I will link to it here: Planning for Year-End.

Instead, I want to share with you a post by Michael Rosen along the same lines. Will One Charity’s Surprising Year-End Email Make You Look Bad?

In his post, Rosen describes an email he received from Charities Aid Foundation of America (CAF). The subject line of the email was this: “Extended Holiday Hours.”

I’ve never received something like that from a nonprofit before,” says Rosen. “So it stood out. I was intrigued enough to open the email.


According to Dr. Heidi Grant, whose book Reinforcements was published last June, among the common reasons people don’t help others are that they are unaware that help is needed and they don’t see themselves as the one who is supposed to help. She calls this latter phenomenon a “diffusion of responsibility.” When you’re the only one there, it’s clear that you are the one who is supposed to help. When you are just one in a crowd, it is less clear– with the all-too-frequent result that no one steps in to help.

What you can do, in these next few weeks, is to communicate with your donors that they are individually special to you – that they are not just one in a crowd.

Nick Ellinger of The Agitator blog points to a difference between “make donors feel special,” and “make each donor feel special.”

That’s what CAF’s email did for Michael Rosen. Made him feel special. The email came from Ted Hart, President & CEO of CAF America. So, being a blogger with something to say, Rosen called.

I called Ted after5:00 pm EST. Guess what? He answered his phone! I did not get his voice-mail. I did not get bumped to a member of his staff. I was able to reach the organization’s President & CEO, the guy who sent me the email. After normal business hours. On the first attempt. Impressive.


Rosen finishes his post with this advice:

  • Minimally, maintain normal business hours throughout the holiday season. (You need to physically be there!)
  • Better, extend your business hours during the holiday season.
  • Notify prospects and donors that someone will be available to assist them.
  • Let supporters know they’re appreciated.
  • Provide people with meaningful, useful information.
  • Give people an opportunity to engage.


With that in mind, go back and re-read my post from 2015, Planning for Year-End. I’ve given you some very practical thoughts about what to do these last two weeks that are very consistent with Rosen’s advice.

Happy Holidays everybody! I hope that the season finds you warm and comfortable, surrounded by family, joy, laughter, and good food.


Photo by Walt Kaesler.

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  • Annie Jacobs
    Posted at 12:27h, 18 December

    Reading the Planning for Year-end post you linked us to, I found this: “Assuming you got your appeal mail out the door, the last few days in December are a great time to send out follow-up emails. Explicitly reference the story and/or imagery in the appeal and remind people that there is still time to make a gift in 2015.” Is this something you recommend doing for everyone who got the appeal (and hasn’t yet given) at every appeal cycle. Or just year-end? We’ve never done it before …

    • David Allen
      Posted at 14:09h, 18 December

      I don’t have any information to share about whether it works well enough to warrant the effort. In 2015, I was passing along information from what I was reading. I don’t think it could hurt, but emails are very easy to ignore, and the volume at year-end has increased dramatically in the last few years. This year, I would say IF you have time, and IF you feel it could help in your geography, then there’s no real downside. But I would not necessarily apply the strategy to appeals at other times of the year.

      I would invite other readers to chime in here. Are you sending out email reminders? Do you feel they are worth the effort?