SolarAid: When a personal thank you can lead to so much more...

Updated: Sep 6

To mark one million solar lights sold and distributed in Africa, SolarAid wanted to say a special thank you.



All staff were asked to call donors whose generosity had made such a difference.


Richard Turner, who at the time was Chief Fundraiser and has since returned to the charity as Director of Fundraising, remembers two of his calls fondly.


From getting over initial scepticism to showing the power of a personal thank you, Richard takes up the story…


“Reaching one million solar lights sold and distributed was an extraordinary milestone. We created the campaign, Thanks a Million, as we felt it was important to spend time giving back to our supporters.


For over a week, staff across the charity picked up the phone. There was no ask in the campaign, just a chance to say a heartfelt thank you and have a conservation with our supporters.


One call sticks out in my mind. I ended up speaking to the wife of the person I was trying to reach. After explaining the reason for calling, she asked if I would call her husband who was in hospital. So I did and when I told him why I was calling, we had a good chat about SolarAid.


Years later, during a hiatus I had with SolarAid, one of the fundraising team called me and said: ‘Richard did you call a guy in hospital during the Thanks a Million campaign?'.


He went on to say: ‘We’ve just had a TWO legacies. The first was from the man you spoke to in hospital. His son told us that the family never forgot the time you called to thank their dad for the impact of his support in hospital. He had passed away later that year and it had taken the son a while to sort out the estate.'


“And the second?" I asked. ‘The second, larger legacy was from his wife who had recently passed away. The son explained that this was the largest of all the gifts my parents left to charity and that his mum and dad would have discussed it as they always made those sorts of decisions together.'


Of course, my original call was never part of trying to persuade people to leave a legacy. But it just goes to show how saying thank you and telling supporters about the impact they have had to reach a milestone sticks in their memory.


I also recall another call around the same time where I had to convince a supporter that it wasn’t a sales call, just asking for money.


Once I explained why I was calling and that I just wanted to say thank you, the person on the end of the phone was so shocked that she asked me to repeat everything word-for-word. I thought she had misheard me. But it was only after I repeated everything that she told me she had put me on on speaker phone for her whole family to hear!”


It just goes to show that every single touchpoint you have with your donors can impact on their supporter experience and supporter loyalty. And even if there is no direct ask, as in Richard’s case, an amazing show of charity support can still come out of the blue.


ALL ABOUT LOYALTY is a group for charity folk to discuss and share experiences and ideas about supporter loyalty, relationships, stewardship and retention? If you are interested in understanding, measuring and growing supporter loyalty, join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/allaboutloyalty.


Photo credit: SolarAid