How Well Are You Thanking Your Donors?

Are nonprofit organizations doing a good job of thanking their donors?  I decided to conduct a little test after doing our year-end giving to see how well those organizations thanked me.  I made all the donations online.
All five organizations I donated to do good work, but could do a better job of thanking their donors.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they are the only guilty culprits.  What did I discover and how can nonprofit organizations do better?  Read on.
ALL donors should get a thank you letter, card, or phone call
More people are donating online now, but that doesn’t mean they should be cheated out of a nice thank you letter when all they get is an auto reply. 
One of the of the organizations sent me a letter with a handwritten note (good!) and another one sent a handwritten thank you card (even better!).  The others sent email auto replies. No one called me.
When someone donates online, there should be a three-part thank you process.  First, the donor is taken to a thank you landing page, then they get an automated email response, and finally they receive a thank you by mail or phone.
I don’t know if I would have received something in the mail if I had donated by mail, but that shouldn’t matter.
Create better thank you landing pages
Your landing page is your first opportunity to say thank you and most of these look like Amazon receipts.  Two of the organizations used PayPal, a generic third party site, although to their credit, these nonprofits thanked me by mail.
One of the landing pages opened with “Thank You Ann!”  That’s a good start or say,You’re incredible.  Include an engaging photo and a specific example of how the donation will be used. 
Make it more personal. After that, you can include the transaction summary, tax-deductible information, tracking number, etc.
Show your donors how they are helping you make a difference
Most of the thank you messages I received didn’t give specific examples of how my donation makes a difference.  I realize your nonprofit may have a number of programs, but choose something specific.  Will a donation buy a family a week’s worth of groceries or provide a child with presents on Christmas morning?
Be personal and conversational
The language in some of these messages came across as vague and impersonal.  One letter referenced “being dedicated to the needs and aspirations” of members of the community, and works “to create and sustain a strong, engaged, and inclusive community.”  Yikes!
In one of the letters that did let me know how my gift would help, the organization wrote “the many less fortunate children who will experience the joy of Christmas because of you.”  Okay, but something better would be – Thanks to you, Jason will have presents to open on Christmas morning.
Don’t start your letter with “On behalf of X organization”
When you do, you are focusing on your organization, not your donor.  In my last post, I wrote about the importance of being donor-centered.
The first words your donor should see are thanks to you or you’re incredible (amazing, terrific, etc).
Recognize previous donations
I’ve donated to all these organizations before and none of them recognized that. Your donors want to feel as if you are communicating with them directly. Recognize past donations or welcome new donors.
Your thank you letter/note is the first step in good donor relations. Invest time in doing it well.
Need more information?  Read what these experts have to say.

Photo by Iain Farrell via Flickr

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