At the end of November, I made year-end donations to 25 organizations. Because I was worried about people who would be left behind in the new administration, 11 of these were new donations.
I wish I could tell you that all these organizations sent glowing thank you letters and have been following up with engaging updates and minimal additional requests for donations, but, alas, that is not the case.
Some organizations are doing a better job of communicating than others. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I experienced after I made my year-end donations.
Saying thank you
I made all my donations online, but only four organizations sent me thank you letters, and one sent a handwritten postcard. I’m a big believer in sending a thank you by mail or making a phone call even if someone donates online.
Two of the letters started with the dreaded “On behalf of.“ If you’re sending something on your letterhead, I already know it’s coming from your organization. The first words in your letter should be Thank you or something like You’re incredible.
One of the letters included a pre-printed Thank You! in big, bold, blue scripted letters at the top. Another opened with Welcome, and thanks so much … since I’m a new donor. These are simple things you can do to make your letters stand out.
All of the organizations sent email thank you messages. Some were generic receipts. Others opened with a story and an engaging photo.
Automatic emails won’t be personalized, which is why you should also thank by mail or phone. You can, however, still write a warm, heartfelt thank you message.
Another way to stand out is with a good email subject line. You have to include a subject line, so give some thought to it. Many of the organizations said thank you in the subject line. One acknowledged it was a monthly gift.
A couple of good examples are Thank you, Ann and Thank you for your generosity. Some not so good examples are Donation received, Thank you.Your gift has been received (they get additional demerits for using the passive voice), and X organization Gift Acknowledgement
If you use a lame subject line, it’s less likely someone will even open your thank you email. Once they do, inspire them with opening lines such as You did something incredible, You are taking a stand for justice or You did something important.
Welcoming new donors
I made a number of first-time donations, but I’m not feeling a whole lot of new donor love. As mentioned above, I did get welcomed as a new donor and the thank you letter included links of ways to get involved.
One organization offered me a t-shirt, which I declined. A thank you letter included contact information and a link to tell the organization why I supported them. Another invited me to take a tour of the organization, which is a great way to connect.
Otherwise, it was business as usual. Don’t fall into that trap. You need to go the extra mile to welcome new donors. With first-time donor retention rates at about 30%, you can’t afford to be complacent.
This is the first time I’ve done monthly giving – approximately half of my gifts were monthly ones. I actually got more response to being a monthly donor than being a new one.
One organization gave me the name of a contact person if I needed to change anything. Another specifically sent me a story letting me know how my monthly donation is helping them make a difference.
Here’s a good example of a way to communicate your thanks to your monthly donors – I really can’t emphasize enough how much we appreciate our monthly donors. Your consistent support is the backbone of our program. Another organization refers to their monthly donors as Friends for All Seasons.
A different organization sent me an email thank you acknowledgment for the second installment of my monthly gift. I assume this will be a regular occurrence, which is a great idea. You want to encourage monthly donations and ensure your donors will keep supporting you this way. Setting up an engaging thank you email to go out each month is a great start.
Stayed tuned for Part Two where I share the good, the bad, and the ugly of how these organizations are staying in touch, or not.