Expressing your gratitude to the donors who support your non-profit is more important than ever. The average U.S. donor contributes to 4.5 non-profits annually, so having a clear strategy and marketing/sales plan for staying top-of-mind year-round is more important than ever. We’ve outlined 7 tips for a memorable and effective donor thank you.
As you plan your fundraising campaigns, focus on the entire process for building relationships with your new and long-term donors. An alarming 65 percent of donors never make a second gift and 40 percent of donors never get thanked for their contributions. All relationships require care and attention to remain healthy.
“Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day,” says Forbes, pointing out the many psychological benefits of expressing thanks.
The Value of a Donor Thank You Note
Here are seven imperatives for donor thank you’s.
- Be timely. Whether a donor contributed a few dollars via Facebook or a corporation committed to multi-year gifts, you should acknowledge the gift immediately. Automated platforms will enable you to personalize and send an immediate e-mail or text. Even if you plan to send a snail mail note, an instant acknowledgment of a donation will make the donor feel valued and contribute to the positive branding of your organization.
- Personalize your messaging. Just as you build a marketing plan and communications stream for different segments of the market. For example, new donors should get communications that give them a bit more information about the organization’s mission. Personalization involves more than just leading with a person’s name rather than “Dear Donor.” Simple things like including Thank You” in the subject line and using the word “you” throughout your messaging will help the reader feel more valued. Here are some other great tips for personalizing thank you notes.
- Think digital and conventional. The handwritten note and phone call are still alive and well. Receiving a personal call from an Executive Director or Chairman of the Board creates a “wow” moment for the person answering the phone (or listening to the voicemail message). When sending thank you notes, look for creative configurations, custom stamps, and other easy-to-execute touches that appeal to the recipient. Keep your messaging short, simple, and easy-to-scan. Remember, we’re living in an era where people are more inclined to look at pictures and short copy than read long tomes. Here’s a great example from CHARITY: WATER
- Remind donors of how their gifts are being used. Specific information and imagery about your programs will connect donors to your organization at a deeper level. For example, knowing that funds went towards helping a family heal after an accident or illness will give the donor a sense of the human benefits your non-profit delivers. Lynne Wester, the author of The Four Pillars of Donor Relations, was quoted on the Donor Tools site as saying:
“Nonprofits don’t take the time to tell the donor the impact and power of their gift, where the money went, and how it was spent. Instead, they’re too eager to obtain the next gift which leads to horrific retention rates. We have to make the donor the hero and tell a story, not overwhelm them with news and information about the organization or ask them for more money. First, we have to thank them, and then tell them the impact their money had.”
- Just thank…don’t sell. Building on the above quote, remember to separate the moment from gratitude from your next “ask.” You’ll have other opportunities to ask for contributions. If you must, include a reminder in a P.S., but most experts agree that thank you notes should remain focused exclusively on appreciation.
- A gift in return. Many non-profits create unique experiences for their loyal contributors. Create a donor appreciation event and invite guests to a special celebration. Not only do you offer a good time for the people who support your organization, you offer an opportunity for networking and conversation. Or, come up with a specific gift item that your donors would value. As with all business swag, select those items that are useful, unique, and creative. Corporate professionals may not be likely to display a logo-ed item on their desks, for example. If you work for a larger non-profit, consider utilizing an automated service like Sendoso, taking the work of packaging and shipping gifts off your organization’s plates. You can even match the size of the gift to the size of the donation.
- Engage your team and look to best practices. Ask your staff and Board members to gather examples of great thank you notes they received. Organize a brainstorming jam session to talk over creative ideas and message points. Videos have become popular tactics in non-profit communications. Creating messages that move are a great way of grabbing your donor’s attention.
As noted above, streamline and automate the process whenever possible, without ever losing sight of the human touch. An organization that takes the time to thank its supporters will be viewed as a true leader.
“Gratitude will shift you to a higher frequency, and you will attract much better things.” – Rhonda Byrne