Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Bridesmaid Dress- A Thank You that Includes an ASK?!

Lately, I've been on the receiving end of some pretty confusing donor communications from non profits and universities. I get a pretty envelope with the words Thank You printed on the front in appropriate colors, and I giddily open the envelope, expecting an amazing donor relations piece and a sincere thank you and then BOOM- I'm smacked upside the head with a solicitation-NOT COOL.

I am a strong proponent that a thank you should be pure, sincere and unadulterated. And a solicitation should have nice appreciative language, but the two should not form some mutant species like the liger. Let's face it, some things have only one purpose in life.

Take the humble bridesmaid dress for example. No matter how much the sales clerk and your soon to be married friend try to convince you, no piece of that "apple green" or "lavender" taffeta or organza is getting near your body again for another purpose. You might as well have just set that $300 on fire. You're NOT going to wear it again for a "special occasion".  It will just sit there in your closet and taunt you, saying "you could have had a vacation". Bridesmaid dresses are like asks, just let them be what they are. Don't sew a fake flower on them and pretend that it is what it isn't. It's a solicitation, not a thank you. Keep the lines clean and clear.

Just remember- someone thought these were a good idea too-

For a concrete example, let's go back to my claim that receipts and acknowledgments are two separate things. The same goes for a solicitation and a thank you:

Dear Aunt Shirley,

Thank you so much for the cabbage patch doll, valued at $49.99. I will love Xavier and hug him and keep his clothes nice and clean. I really appreciate my birthday present. I am, however growing older and I think that Rainbow Brite is the next hot thing... Christmas is coming, what do you say, send me one of those?

See you next year,


The text in bold is just as tacky as taking a solicitation to an ask. It may be an exaggerated version of reality, but how many of us have received a thank you letter or receipt with a reply device in it? And then we professionals wonder why first time donor retention levels are so low...
2 + 2 = 4... most of the time. Remember the #1 reason donors stop giving is because they are over-solicited. Let's cut them a break and decide that we're JUST going to sincerely thank them and tell them the impact of their gift, WITHOUT shoving a link to the giving website or a reply device down their throats.

So just like picking the perfect bridesmaid dress, don't go down without a fight! Keep on advocating for your donors and remember that the most sincere and meaningful thing we can do is to thank someone. Sometimes, simplicity is best.

What are your thoughts? I always welcome your responses (and bad bridesmaid photos too)


  1. Lynne, this is my favorite post of yours - ever! Your philosophy on this issue mirrors mine. It's comforting to know that you and others out there realize the importance of a PURE thank you! So, THANK YOU! Of course your humorous approach to this issue is fabulous, even though the bridesmaids dresses are NOT! :-)
    Tony Stringer, UGA

  2. I love this post, Lynne! I've always advised against the use of an ask in a thank you letter myself. One of my favorite articles was the debate between Lisa Sargent and Sean Triner on the SOFII site.

    I hear you on the bridesmaids dresses. One of my dearest friends had the brilliant idea of outfitting all of us bridesmaids in tuxes with cropped pants, lace hose, and pink cumberbunds. I don't need to tell you, it was the most fun I've had at a wedding. Just an inexpensive tux rental and no dress rotting in my closet ;).

  3. These are great replies thank you so much- sometimes you have to give a visual to bring the theory and concept down to earth!

  4. Clearly, I have found the right profession. When I got married, I kept telling my bridesmaids "I'm not going to tell you that you can wear the dress again." I found a great dress for about a third of what one usually pays, and two of them wore it again. Not sure if that has implications in our profession? You tell donors your thank you isn't an ask and they send you money anyway?

  5. I'm all about having them send me money when I thank them! Nikki you were a Kind bride!

  6. Michele Dziadik-WillinghamOctober 1, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I loved this post! I have always worked at small shops, so it amazed me when a very large, very well known, nation NPO (that should know better) did this with my "thank you" letter. Needless to say, I did not feel thanked for my gift at all and didn't feel appreciated as a donor. I had it hanging in my office as an example of what not to do. I use that experience as a way to remind myself that you can never over thank your donors, but you can over ask.

  7. I just want to know how in the world anyone could make such hideous dresses! Love the post!