Thank Your Donors All Year Round

This post was featured in the November 2012
Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

Many of you have probably invested a lot of time this fall creating an annual appeal campaign, but how much time have you invested in thanking your donors?   

Donor relations needs to be part of your fundraising plan
Building relationships with your current donors is actually easier and less expensive than trying to find new donors, but many nonprofits overlook this.  According to Katya Andresen from Network for Good, the average nonprofit loses about 60% of the donors they had in the previous year. Don’t let that happen to you.   

Here are a few ways to build relationships and show appreciation to your donors all year round.

Thank your donors right away
Every single donor, no matter how much they have given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to them.  Thank you letters should be sent out no later than 48 hours after you have received a donation.  This shouldn’t be hard to do.  Carve out some time each day you get a donation and send out your thank you letters.

Go the extra mile when you thank your donors
Instead of sending out a generic thank you letter, mail a handwritten card and call your donors.  Calling your donors to thank them is something your board can do and is often a welcome surprise. Invest In Thanking Your Donors

Get creative and personal
If you can’t send out handwritten cards, get creative with your printed letter.  Don’t start your letter with “On behalf of X organization we thank you for your donation of….”   Open the letter with “You are amazing” or use one of the suggestions from this post. 22 Delightful Ways to Say Thank You!  Make your letter colorful, but tasteful, and include an engaging photo.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor.  For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, you could mention that.  In addition, make sure all the letters are hand signed.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donation. 

Here are some examples of great thank you letters.

Stay in touch
You don’t want your communication with your donors to end after you send out your thank you letters.  In the letter, invite your donors to sign up for your newsletter and follow you on social media.

Communicate with your donors on a regular basis in ways in which you are not asking for money. Send out email between once a week and once a month.  You can post on social media more often, such as once or twice a day.

A newsletter is a great way to update your donors.  Make sure it is donor-centered and focus on success stories that demonstrate how you are making a difference with the donors’ contributions.  For example, I used to work for a mentoring organization and we would feature a different mentor/mentee match each month in our newsletter. 

Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and social media updates.  Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without your donors’ support.

Here is more information about communicating effectively via your newsletter and social media.

Other ways to show appreciation
Another good way to show appreciation to your donors is to hold an open house at your organization.  Offer tours so your donors can see the inner workings of your nonprofit.  Make your open house informal and fun, and provide food.  Include a brief program that might include a video/power point presentation or a few words from a client.  If cost is an issue, you could have food donated.  Even if your donors don’t come to your open house, they will appreciate the invitation.

Many nonprofits will send out Thanksgiving or holiday cards, which is fine even though most people receive a higher volume of mail at that time.  You are more likely to catch your donors’ attention if you send something out around Valentine’s Day or right before spring.

Here are some other ways to say thank you. 8 Ways You’re Probably Not Thanking Your Donors

The most important thing is to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round.  If you treat them well, maybe they’ll treat you well the next time you send out your annual appeal.

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