What’s the Deal With Donor Birthday Wishes?

Published on October 17, 2018

Brian Saber

President of Asking Matters
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Yesterday was my birthday. Along with heartfelt wishes from dear friends and family, a number of charities reached out to wish me a happy birthday — almost to a one with generic, impersonal greeting cards.


C’mon, you know every donor is getting the exact same acknowledgment for their birthday. It certainly doesn’t feel special to me. In fact, it reminds me I’m one of the masses…and that everyone has lots of information on me and can use it efficiently.

Maybe I’m wrong about this. Perhaps someone has done some research and found that most donors are touched by the sentiment. But I’m not sure that’s true. I think it’s an idea someone once had which everyone else copied.

Even when there’s a signature or brief note, it feels like a blatant attempt to win favor with me. Does my alma mater truly care that it’s my birthday? It’s not as if I have some deep connection with the fundraising staff.

We’re all taught “touches” are important. Generally, the more times we “touch” a donor during the year, the deeper the relationship becomes. But those “touches,” if they’re of a personal nature, need to be personalized and appropriate to the relationship.

So, while it’s perfectly appropriate to send me generic newsletters, video clips, and such throughout the year – these materials aren’t meant to have the personal touch – this approach just doesn’t work when it depersonalizes the personal.

Further, birthdays are supposed to be a time for those you care about most to make a fuss about you. In a world where it’s become harder and harder to focus on those who mean the most to us, we don’t need generic birthday wishes infiltrating our special day.

I love my alma mater…just not that way!


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