“I’m just calling to say thank you.”

The call-display screen listed a major Canadian educational institution (not in Ontario.) I recognized it as one of the involuntary participants in our white mail experiment and picked up to hear a young female. “Krista” was calling to thank me for my donation.

Background: on November 18 I made a $100 donation to each of 12 very different Canadian charities to see what responses I’d get back. You can read more about our KMA White Mail Experiment here. http://www.kmaconsultants.ca/blog/welcome-white-mail-experiment

Krista did a good job. She followed her script, was relaxed and personable. She asked, “What led you to make a gift to us - it doesn’t seem that you were a student here and you live in Ontario?”  I mentioned that a friend had recently gone to work for the university. She asked if I had any questions. I asked what she was studying. Turns out she’s in her last year of an international development degree, and eager to graduate. But she resisted the temptation to keep talking about herself, and went on to ask me if there were any questions she could answer about the university.

I had none and we said goodbye.

Overall, I am impressed, for four reasons.

To start with, I made a $100 gift to an organization with an annual budget of more than $100 million and which recently received a gift in multiple tens of millions. Yet calling me, a new $100 donor is an organizational commitment.

Second, they asked me why I gave. And what about the University interested me. And if I had any questions - twice.

Next, Kristy didn’t ask for anything else. The call had one announced purpose – to thank and learn about me – and no other agenda surfaced. Nice!

Finally, the call was preceded by two mailings – a thank-you card from the President, and a “welcome” folder. The greeting-card sized envelope contained a small folder, several information sheets, a survey about my interests, and a business card from one of the fundraising staff. Despite the card and welcome pack arriving on top of each other, the effort and coordination were clear. Impressive.

Not everyone can do this. It takes effort and budget. You might argue that for a $100 gift receiving (a) a receipt immediately after receiving my cheque; (b) a Presidential greeting card; (c) a welcome pack; and (d) a phone call a month later, is well over the top. You may be right.

But here’s what I take away: although they know nothing about me, and my gift was very modest in that world, they assume that every new person is someone with whom they want to have a relationship.

Few Canadian charities will raise more than $80 million this year, as this university will. Even fewer will ever receive a single gift exceeding $30 million.

But wherever a charity starts to earn bigger gifts – however modest “bigger” may be in most settings - someone is finding a way to show a donor that the organization wants to know who they are and what they care about. Bravo!

- Larry Matthews