Have you seen the recent posts from the Agitator blog about thanking your donors? It’s worth reading, as are all Agitator posts. They cite a study where thank you calls didn’t result in an increase in donations.
This prompted a flurry of responses, all in support of thanking your donors, including this one by Penelope Burk, whose research has shown that thank you calls can increase future donations.
Some donors may not care if and how they get thanked, but most people want to feel appreciated. Perhaps these thank you calls didn’t make a difference since some people don’t like phone calls. These calls were made three to six months after the donation, which is way, way too long afterward. It should have been more like three to six days.
Maybe these calls were done poorly and someone was just robotically reciting from a script. Donor thank yous are often done poorly, so it may not be surprising that your generic thank you email didn’t resonate with your donors.
If you want donors to respond positively about how you thank them, then you need to do a better job of it.
This is a good time to revisit the importance of having a thank you plan. Thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both. Many organizations just thank donors after they receive a gift and then go into hiding until the next fundraising appeal.
Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. It’s something you need to do throughout the year. Creating a thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round.
Here’s what you need to include in your thank you plan.
Plan to make a good first impression with your thank you landing page
Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s often just a boring receipt rather than something that makes a person feel good about making a donation.
Open with Thank you, Debbie or You’re amazing! Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve. Put all the tax-deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.
If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.
Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email
Set up an automatic thank you email to go out after someone donates online. This email thank you is more of a reassurance to let your donor know you received her donation. You still need to thank her by mail or phone (see below).
Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.
Give some thought to the email subject line, too. At the very least make sure it says Thank You or You made a difference today and not something boring like Your Donation Receipt or Donation Received. And please don’t use words like transaction and processed.
Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone
I’m a firm believer that every donor, no matter how much she’s given or whether she donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to her or receives a phone call.
Try to thank your donors within 48 hours or within a week at the latest. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.
Instead of sending a generic, boring thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Making thank you calls or writing thank you notes is something your board can do.
Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may also want to conduct a short training. Make sure to get your team together well before your next fundraising campaign so you’re ready to go when the donations come in.
Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.
Hi, this is Tanya Lewis and I’m a board member at the Northside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We’re seeing more people coming in right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.
If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization, we thank you for your donation of…. Open the letter with You’re incredible or Because of you, Michael won’t go to bed hungry tonight. Create separate letters for new donors, renewing donors, and monthly donors.
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, mention that. Make sure all letters are hand signed.
Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donations.
In addition, write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal letter. Make sure they’re ready to go as soon as the donations come in. Don’t wait three weeks.
Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round
This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because as I mentioned before – thanking your donors is something you must do all year round.
Use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors. Try to say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ways to do that.
- Send cards or email messages at Thanksgiving, during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or mix it up a little and send a note of gratitude in June or September when your donors won’t be expecting it. Try to send at least one or two gratitude messages a year by mail, since your donors will be more likely to see those.
- Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. 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.
- Create a thank you video and share it on your thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.
- Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors
Creating a thank you plan will make it easier 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 a fundraising appeal.