I didn’t feel a lot of donor love after I made my year-end gifts at the end of November. I thought maybe it’s coming later. Okay, now it’s later – the middle of January. Let’s see how things are going.
How long do I have to wait for a thank you letter?
The Whiny Donor (@thewhinydonor) always shares spot on fundraising tweets, and one of her best is “Seriously. How long are you going to make me wait for that thank you letter?” I’ve been thinking the same thing over the last several weeks.
It’s recommended that organizations thank their donors within 48 hours. I made all my donations online, so technically most of these organizations did that, even though their automatically generated thank you emails weren’t laced with donor love. This is an easy fix. There’s no reason why you can’t create a warm and personal thank you email.
But you’re not off the hook. Even if someone donates online, she should get a thank you by mail or phone.
Only three organizations sent me thank you letters, and two of them came in mid-January. One was from a new organization, that due to recent events, I felt compelled to give to last year. I had been disappointed that the only thing I received from them were PayPal receipts for my monthly donation. Therefore, I was quite pleased that they welcomed me as a monthly donor and let me know that “none of our work would be possible without caring donors like you.”
The phrase better late than never applies here, but don’t wait too long. If you haven’t sent a thank you by mail do that now! And in the future, be ready to send thank you letters/handwritten notes or make phone calls right after you receive a donation.
Naughty and nice
Thank you letters are just the beginning. You need to stay in touch throughout the year. Some organizations sent me holiday and New Year’s greetings by email. One of the holiday emails included the subject line “Celebrating Ann this season.” Several included year-end updates, one with the subject line“Here’s how we put your gift to work.” These organizations are on the nice list.
I also received a couple of holiday cards in the mail. Unfortunately, these organizations are going straight to the naughty list since they included donation envelopes with their cards. A couple of holiday emails included a donate button at the bottom of the message, but that wasn’t as obvious.
I get that you’re trying to raise money, but there are times when you should just show gratitude. Also, I had recently donated to one of the organizations that sent me a “thask”
But I just donated
Speaking of raising money, most of the communication I received from nonprofits in December were fundraising requests. I was barraged with generic fundraising appeals, even though I already gave in November or give a recurring monthly donation.
Sometimes it seems these organizations don’t know me as a donor. Do you expect me to give another gift in December even though I just gave a month earlier? If so, acknowledge my previous donation and let me know why I should give again. If I give monthly, why am I getting a request for a one-time gift? If there’s a specific need, let me know.
Again, I get that you’re trying to capitalize on year-end giving. But try not to send appeals to people who have just donated. If you can’t do that, then include a thanks to people who’ve already donated. One organization ended their appeal with “P.S. — If you’ve already made your gift, THANK YOU. We’ve had an outpouring of support and are busy processing donations.”
Monthly donors should get separate appeals recognizing that they’re monthly donors. Only a couple of organizations acknowledged me as a monthly donor.
Fundraising is more than just raising money. It’s also about building relationships. This means framing your appeal to sound less like you’re begging for money and more like you recognize your donors for who they are.
Focus on what’s important to your donors
I mentioned before the importance of staying in touch with your donors throughout the year. I do hear from some organizations through their newsletters, updates, and advocacy alerts. All the organizations I support should be staying in touch and that’s not happening. I tend to hear from the same handful of organizations.
Just sending a newsletter or an update is not enough. You need to focus on how your donors are helping you make a difference and not on your organization. I like PetPartners and what they do, and they generally create a good newsletter. But in a recent e-newsletter, they fell into the look at how great we are trap by including this organization-centered subject line – “Pet Partners Chosen As 2017 Best Animal Therapy Nonprofit!”
Looking at other articles in the newsletter, I would have used “Meet Swoosh, a cancer therapy dog” as the email subject line to help draw me in. To their credit, three out of the four articles were about therapy dogs. I’m much more interested in hearing stories about how therapy animals are helping people. That’s what drew me to the organization in the first place.
When choosing articles for your newsletter or sharing an update, think about why someone donates to your organization. It’s usually because they care about your cause and not because you’re number one in something.
Don’t leave your donors with the feeling they should be expecting more. Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and share information that shows them how they’re helping you make a difference.
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