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Thank You for Being a Friend…

  • Olivia Stuart and Tucker Hull
  • Fundraising

Membership: the driving force behind each political action, legislative victory, and every saved sea turtle. So often we ask the world from our members (or our donors, where a membership model doesn’t apply). We request not only their hard earned finances to advance our work, but also we ask for their time, their input, and their advocacy. But how often do we find ourselves asking what we can do for our members?

This question had been on the forefront of our minds at the Human Rights Campaign as we began to gear up for Pride season. By the time June (which is recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month) rolls around, we really kick those asks into high gear. After an incredibly difficult year, we found ourselves overwhelmed with gratitude and proposed doing the unthinkable… we turned our focus from our regular efforts on the first day of one of our busiest months to saying just “thank you.”

So, on June 1st this year, we launched the first annual Human Rights Campaign Membership Appreciation Day. This was a robust, branded, cross-organizational effort dedicated to simply thanking our members for everything they do to support not just the Human Rights Campaign, but the continued fight for LGBTQ equality.

It started as a big idea that in theory seemed simple enough, but ultimately turned into an effort larger than any of us could have imagined. Like many great ideas in the direct response fundraising world, it started with a simple direct mail cultivation piece. We mailed a notecard package to consecutive-year donors that contained customizable data fields reflecting their unique donor experience. Most importantly, the package did not include a return envelope. Our Membership Director even included contact information in the P.S. line (!) which turned out to be an incredible way for us to hear from our members.

Here is the notecard packet that was sent:


This soon blossomed into a broader organizational effort. Online, we sent out a handwritten email from Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, boosted static “thank you” digital ads, and blasted our message across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These combined efforts garnered a reach of over 350K.

We then used data modeling to determine who to contact through a peer-to-peer texting platform. These authentic conversations created the opportunity to reconnect with our membership base in ways we hadn’t been able to over the past year due to the pandemic. The effort not only provided members a well-deserved and much needed “thank you,” but reenergized our staff as well.

We had our telemarketing firms help us make calls to both general members and some of our mid-level donors. Additionally, our staff (including our President Alphonso David!) took time throughout the day to call general members, mid-level, and major donors. For everyone with whom we were not able to connect, we sent out an auto-blast voicemail message recorded by Alphonso. In total, we were able to make nearly 33K contacts over the phone (7K of which resulted in live conversations), with an additional 171K people receiving the auto-blast.

Listen to the auto-blast voicemail message from HRC President Alphonso David.


The responses to the day were overwhelmingly positive. Members commented on our social posts referencing the phone calls or texts they received throughout the day. Our telemarketers reported that it was one of their favorite days of calling due to the kindness they received from members. We did not see an increase in people opting out of our content — in fact, despite not asking for donations at any point, we still managed to receive several contributions, including the renewal of one major donor household’s annual gift.

“I’m proud to be of some help. The fight is not over until everyone is free to be who they are.”

“Thank you for your nice and kind letter, making me feel appreciated. The work has been a joy.”

“Thank you very much for having APPRECIATION of us. That bit of kindness means a great day.”

— Some of the feedback we received from members

As with all new initiatives, we learned some valuable lessons. The audio volume of our voicemail was a bit low, and with more lead time we probably could have used an opportunity to re-record it to make sure folks could hear it clearly. Planning this out further in advance would also have allowed us to increase our people power to engage more staff in this effort. We may consider adding in a call to action in the future for folks that are motivated to do more after they receive a call or text.

We will continue to monitor these folks over the next few years to determine their retention and long term value to see whether this effort had any lasting impact. But the true victory from this campaign has nothing to do with numbers; rather, it’s about the feeling of pride that comes from connecting with our members and letting them know how truly special they are. No one comes to your organization for no reason. Getting to know members and their reason for giving will inform the work you do moving forward, and will allow them to feel appreciated and respected. Don’t trick yourself into thinking the only good time for an authentic “thank you” is during the holidays — we can (and should) always find time to express a little gratitude.

Olivia Stuart and Tucker Hull
Author: Olivia Stuart and Tucker Hull

Olivia Stuart (she/her) is Senior Manager, Membership Communications at the Human Rights Campaign. Tucker Hull (he/him) is Member Services Coordinator at Human Rights Campaign.

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