I sometimes wonder if nonprofit organizations are doing the best they can when they communicate with their donors. Unfortunately, there are a lot of examples of poor communication out there.
It doesn’t have to be like this. You can do a better job of communicating with your donors if you make an effort.
Does your thank you letter make your donors smile?
I find some of the worst examples come from thank you letters or what I like to call the thank you experience (for online donors it’s the thank you landing page, thank you email, and a thank you by mail or phone). Often it’s a lack of thank you experience.
At the end of last year, I gave an example of a thank you landing page and thank you email which were basically just transactional receipts. Some Observations From the Year-End Fundraising Season
This organization also sent a thank you letter about a week after I made the donation. I was pleasantly surprised because most nonprofits don’t mail a thank you letter if you donate online, although they should.
My good feelings vanished when I saw this letter was also just a receipt. It was from the Chief Financial Officer and opened with – This letter serves to acknowledge receipt by X Organization of a donation of X dated 11/27/18. Then it when on to say my husband and I may be entitled to claim a tax deduction. At the very end, the organization said – Thank you for your generous contribution.
This organization seems to think the most important part of a donation is the tax deduction rather than making the donor feel appreciated.
The organization redeemed itself a little by sending another letter from the President, which was dated January 10. This was an actual thank you letter, although not an outstanding one (more on that in a future post).
The problem here is this organization left me with a bad impression by making their initial thank you a receipt. I should have received the actual thank you letter at the beginning of December, not six weeks after I made the donation. I would have combined the two letters, leading with the thank you and including the tax-deductible information at the end.
Contrast this with a rare handwritten thank you note I received from Reach Out and Read, which gave specific examples by telling me my gift will enrich the lives of children by providing them with books at their wellness visits. and Their parents will receive information about the importance of reading to their children daily.
One question you can ask yourself as you write a thank you letter is will this letter make my donors smile? It won’t if it’s like the first example but should if it resembles the second one.
I encourage you to spend six minutes watching this video How to write a great thank you letter to your year end donors, which will help you create a thank you letter that will make your donors smile.
One key to good thank you letters is giving it the personal touch. TY Thursday: A Personal Letter is Better Than a Personalized One
Fundraising appeal dodgeball
#GivingTuesday and the end of December bring back memories of playing dodgeball in gym class. Nonprofits are hurling a constant stream of email appeals with pleas for “last chance to donate.” Really, you can’t donate after December 31?
I was barraged with emails at the end of December even though I gave gifts in November or am a monthly donor. Most were just generic appeals, although a few added a thank you to people who have already donated. Personalization didn’t exist.
Fundraising letters weren’t much better. Organizations I don’t support tried to entice me with useless mailing labels and notepads. Organizations I do support don’t acknowledge my past giving.
To paraphrase one of my favorite Seth Godin quotes – More isn’t better. Better is better. – Instead of a constant blast of appeals, work on making them better.
What’s holding you back?
Now that we’re in the New Year, this is a good time to figure out how you can make improvements in your donor communication.
Although a handwritten thank you note is better than a letter, you may not be able to send notes to all your donors. But that shouldn’t stop you from writing a good, heartfelt letter. Also, show your online donors some love by sprucing up your landing page and thank you email so they don’t resemble a receipt.
Maybe you can write short, personal notes on your thank you letters. Recruit board members and volunteers to help you with this.
Perhaps you’ve been sending the same boring appeal letters and thank you letters for years. Write a better letter that focuses more on relationships with your donors instead of a transaction.
Segment your donors. At the very least, thank current donors for their past support. Investing in a good database will help this.
Take time to make improvements in your donor communication so your donors don’t wonder – Is this the best you can do?