NO EXCUSES! Many Non-Profits Have Dropped Ball

Please repeat after me:

“Non-profits do not have a free pass 

when it comes to customer service!”


If you work for one of these organizations – take notice.

If you’ve ever made a donation to a charity and didn’t receive a thank-you note – you already understand. (The same holds true for giving your time and energy.)

If every charity you support knocks your socks off with expressions of appreciation – consider yourself extremely fortunate.

This is going to blow you away!

I recently read a blog post by non-profit marketing consultant Kivi Lerous Miller. She performed an incredible experiment that started with 12 donations.

She wrote: “I specifically selected 12 national charities that I had not previously contributed to, but whose missions I support, in order to see what the communications response would be to my $25 gift.”

Ummmm….I probably already killed the punchline, didn’t I? I guess I wouldn’t be writing this post if 10 or 11 of the non-profits simply said “thank you for your donation.”

TRY 4 OF THE 12!

Yep…33 percent!

While that average will put you into contention for a Major League batting title, it will get you fired and/or embarrassed in the real world.

There are times when I think that a lot of non-profit organizations simply don’t get it. (Please know that I’m not characterizing the whole industry…I said “a lot” NOT “all.”)

After reading about Ms. Miller’s experiment – I received concrete, inarguable proof that I’m unfortunately right.

I hate the fact that Ms. Miller didn’t call out the eight charities that didn’t respond (she explains here). She gave wonderful props to the ones that did, though.

So will I.

National Public Radio was the first to respond. (It was a form letter, but we’ll take it compared to NOTHING.)

Interplast (personal correspondence and Ms. Miller said it was “great” – I LOVE IT!)

The Alliance for Climate Protection (sent “adequate” letter, according to Miller)

St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (no thank you note, but they did add Ms. Miller to their newsletter mailing list – a little iffy.)

Miller wrote: “I’m obviously really disappointed in not hearing a peep from the other eight. But, ever the supporter of nonprofits, I have come up with several potential reasons (uh, excuses) why this may be the case…”

I’m going to stop Ms. Miller right here.


She tried to rationalize these customer service slaps in the face by saying:

“…maybe my $25 didn’t merit acknowledgment.”

“….it was the holidays and the gift fell through the cracks.”
Actually, my favorite “excuse” was riddled with sarcasm: “The post office and/or Gmail’s spam filter ate their thank-you notes.”

I guess she caught a little heat in this blog post, because in her follow-up she shared actual excuses:

“…several people mentioned that the practical realities of nonprofit management mean that getting thank-you notes out promptly, especially when donations come through non-traditional channels for your organization, can be difficult.”

“…many nonprofits are chronically underfunded and understaffed and often under-skilled in the technology that could make things easier.”
The best part of both blog posts was found buried in Ms. Miller’s follow-up:

“Advice to My Frazzled Nonprofit Friends….Give higher priority to your thank-you notes than to any other piece of communications you work on. The newsletter doesn’t go out, the website doesn’t get updated, your report to your board doesn’t get done, until you have sent some kind of thank-you to your donors. Take control of your work life and make it happen. If you don’t, I can pretty much guarantee that over the long haul, you will remain underfunded and understaffed.”

As soon as I hit “PUBLISH POST” I am going to write Ms. Miller a thank-you note for bringing this inexcusable trend to everyone’s attention.

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