You Made My Day!

You Made My Day!


21 November 2023


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


How long does it take for your organization to turn around a thank you message? You receive a gift one day and the meter starts ticking. How much time elapses between then and the day your “grateful” message goes out the door?

A week? Ten days? Longer?

If you answered, “that same day,” “the next day,” or “within 48 hours,” give yourself a raise.


The psychological phenomenon of “buyer’s remorse” is a real thing and it shows up in fundraising right after someone commits to a gift.

Did I do the right thing?” “Are they really reputable?” “What would my _____ think?” (Fill in the blank with wife, husband, mentor, neighbor, or other personal influencer.)

And the larger the gift (for THEM, not for you), the more significant the feeling of remorse.

The longer you let that feeling settle in, the more damage it is allowed to do.


Worse is the possibility that we are NOT grateful. Not appreciative.

From your perspective, this time of the year is a bit like Christmas was in your childhood. Before a present was opened, it could be anything. When it turns out to be a pair of socks, there is a moment of disappointment before you race off with fresh enthusiasm to the next unopened box with your name on it.

You’ve worked hard all year making these next six weeks possible. And today’s stack of envelopes could be anything. When one turns out to be a check for $25, there is a moment of disappointment before you race off with fresh enthusiasm to the next unopened envelope.

But here’s the real rub: When you sit down a week or ten days or two weeks later to write thank you letters (“We are so grateful …”) are you really grateful – at all? Or is this just another chore you need to get done that day?

Every check, every on-line transfer, every IRA or DAF distribution – represents a gift from someone real. Someone who was thinking about you – or at least the land trust – when they made the decision to give. And for most, the larger the decision (for THEM, not for you), the more they had to consider it before giving.

They deserve a response that comes across more authentically than something getting crossed off your to-do list. And they notice when it is.

Every year I hear stories from donors who were thanked personally, and, remembering how that made them feel, made a larger decision a year later.


I had the great pleasure of watching a development professional’s face when she opened an envelope with a $100,000 check inside. Her eyes got wide. Her breath got short. She had to double-take on the number. One could easily imagine her heart racing a little. “That’s a lot of zeros,” she said.

Now imagine being the donor. Making the decision that significant. Wouldn’t you want to know that the gift was received? Wouldn’t you want to be there when the envelope was opened? Wouldn’t you want to delight in the widening eyes and racing heart?

Wouldn’t you want to know right away that the gift was received? Even though you couldn’t be there?

I would think an enthusiastic phone call would be in order.

“You made my day!”


But here’s the difficult part: It’s easy to react enthusiastically to a $100,000 check when you have opened a whole stack of $100 checks. It’s far more difficult to react enthusiastically to one of the $100 checks. But for some donors, that $100 was just as significant – for THEM, not for you.

This year, take the time to make thanking personal. Not just a chore.

  • Thank donors every day and avoid the temptation to batch them weekly or monthly in the name of being more efficient for you.
  • Do what you need to do to get in the right mental space. Take a breath and remember how fortunate YOU are. Remember that you are not just doing a chore. Hold onto that feeling of being fortunate – and grateful – and let that feeling come through in your thank you letters.
  • Call at least three donors every day between now and New Year’s Day and leave a thank you message on their phone. Put some energy in your voice (“You made my day!”), and talk about how much it means to you and the land trust’s Board/staff that people like them support this critical work.
  • Spread the joy. Recruit other Board members and staff to help make phone calls and write letters. It will feel less like a chore for you if others are involved.
  • Take the time to notice something about the donor and use it to personalize each message. Maybe this was their first gift, or first gift in a while. Maybe it represents a jump from last year. Maybe they have been giving every year for ___ years. Anything you can insert that makes it feel less “rote” will get noticed at their end.


You won’t regret the extra time and effort. Thanking people in a more genuine and heartfelt way will make YOU feel good, too.


Cheers, and have a great Thanksgiving!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by World Wildlife courtesy



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  • Bob Ross
    Posted at 10:04h, 21 November

    Thank you David; excellent advice, as always.

    I learned that lesson years ago when several of us were writing thank you cards. I drew the name of one of the volunteers helping us and made a silly comment because we were responding to “major donors” and she only paid the yearly dues — $40 if memory serves.

    She immediately said: “That’s major to me, Bob.”

    I’m still mortified when I remember my rudeness.

    Thanks for reminding me, David. And, thanks for all you do, and Happy Thanksgiving. Bob

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 08:14h, 21 November

    You make my day every Tuesday David! Thank you for wisdom and information you share with all of us.

  • Jill Boullion
    Posted at 07:59h, 21 November

    Our staff and board did a “Thank-A-Thon” last year after the Thanksgiving break and we enjoyed it so much we’re doing it again this year. Yes, a lot of voice mails were left but every once in a while you get a real person on the phone and make a connection. Totally worth the effort!