Donors and Deodorant

Donors and Deodorant

I’ve written hundreds, perhaps thousands, of grateful thank you letters and notes to donors. So many that for a time, I had a perpetual crick in my neck. I was genuinely thankful for each gift, and I wanted to convey that in the heartfelt, handwritten notes that I included with a very formal printed thank you letter. As time went on, my formal letters became more donor-centric thanks to Tom Ahern's book, What Your Donors Want, but not a whole lot less formal. I somehow imagined that a gift to an organization required this weighty outpouring of gratitude framed in the importance of the work of the organization.

Fast forward to last week when my husband, Miles, bought deodorant online from a company called Native. What does deodorant have to do with donor relations? Well, nothing except that we might take a cue from a refreshing communication from Native CEO, Julia. Here's the email he received after placing a $15 order:

Miles, You Rock!

It was just another day at the office when Kelsey jumped out of her chair,

so fast that I thought fire had engulfed her hair.

“We did it!” she yelled. “We got an order from Miles!”

 Brian ran over to his computer,

because he’s ordinarily the trouble-shooter.

 “Don’t get scared,” said Kelsey,

"You're not moving with your auntie and uncle to Bel Air."

 The office erupted in applause

and we popped a bottle of champagne given to me by my in-laws.

“I Like It Like That” blared from Kelsey’s computer,

and half-eaten sourdough lay next to our recruiter.


Miles, the entire Native team is thrilled to have you as a customer. Your friends will probably start calling you “Healthy Miles” soon. You’ll love it.


After we’re done exchanging high-fives, you’ll receive tracking information so you can get as excited about your delivery as we are. If you have any questions, shoot me a note at


High fives and cool vibes!





Not only is the email customer-centered and grateful, but it's also delightful, surprising, and entertaining. Here’s what the acknowledgment communicated within that short rap:

·       They are thrilled that he’s become a customer

·       They know a little about Miles (or he wouldn’t have understood the Fresh Prince reference)

·       Miles feels clever to have chosen to buy Native, and his friends might notice his health and vitality as a result

·       Julia signed the letter and offered her contact information, inviting a conversation

·       Miles learned more about the corporate culture of the organization

 Take a look at your donor acknowledgments, both electronic and paper. How often do you tout the virtues of the organization and the things that the donor's gift has made possible? Does it feel like a backhanded way of saying, "It's all about us and the good work we do.” Or, are there ways that you can create more delight, make the donor the main focus, and convey how thrilled you are that they chose you?

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