I hope both you and your nonprofit organization are doing okay right now.
You may have seen an increase in giving over the last few weeks. In times of crisis, people want to do something. They want to help if they can.
I’ve seen an upswing of kindness lately. Now you need to extend that same kindness back to your donors. Give them the best thank you possible. Donors are going through a lot, but some of them took the time to give you a donation.
Thanking donors is often treated as a last-minute to-do item instead of an equally important component of fundraising. Just as you shouldn’t stop fundraising, you shouldn’t stop thanking your donors. I know it’s harder now, but you can do it.
Don’t worry so much about the 48-hour rule right now. Concentrate on quality. That goes for every aspect of the thank you experience – the landing page, the automatic thank you email, the additional note/letter or phone call. Don’t give your donors the same old, boring stuff.
Create an engaging thank you landing page
Just like your fundraising material, your thank you communication needs to address the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Create a landing page that addresses the current situation. Perhaps you’re conducting an emergency campaign. Even if you’re not, a huge dose of gratitude needs to pop up on your landing page. Open it with Thank you, Diane! or You’re amazing!
Your landing page is a great place for a short thank you video from your Executive Director or Board Chair. She should specifically explain how your gift is helping the people/community you serve. For example – Thank you so much for your generous gift to the Eastside Community Food Bank. We’re seeing a huge number of people coming in right now. Your gift will help us continue to provide healthy meals for neighborhood residents.
If it’s too hard to create a video, you could include similar text with a photo of volunteers handing out food.
Here’s an example of a message I saw on a nonprofit’s landing page.
We greatly appreciate your gift to our COVID-19 Emergency Services Fund and are glad to count on the ongoing support of friends like you to help us provide vital services to men and women on their journey out of homelessness.
Make that automatically generated email sound like it’s coming from a human
The advantage of the automatically generated thank you email is you can get a message out right away. The disadvantage is it often sounds like it was written by a robot.
There’s absolutely no reason this email can’t sound warm and personal. Again, get specific such as the examples above. It’s hard to personalize these too much, but this is the initial thank you. You’ll send a more personal one later.
You may be able to distinguish between single and monthly gifts. Speaking of monthly gifts, I often get acknowledgments every month for my monthly gifts. It’s time to stop sending the usual generic thank you email and specifically address how the current situation is affecting your organization, because I know it is.
Taking your thank yous to the next level
I like to recommend a thank you by mail, preferably a handwritten note. Communicating by mail may not be feasible if your staff is working from home. Also, I know some people are skittish about dealing with mail during the outbreak.
If you can mail handwritten notes, that’s great. If you don’t have organizational thank you cards, you could get some generic ones.
Other alternatives are thanking by phone, personalized email, and/or personalized video. This is contingent on what type of contact information you have for your donors.
Now you want to rally a team of board members, staff, and other volunteers to help with this. Most people are home right now, so they should be able to devote a few hours a week to thanking donors.
Send them phone numbers and email addresses, along with a sample script. You want to try to personalize it as much as possible. This will be more work, but it pays off in the end.
Here are a couple of sample scripts/notes.
This is Bonnie Peterson and I’m a board member at the Eastside Community Food Bank. Thank you so much for your generous gift of $50 to our emergency fund. We’re seeing a huge number of people coming in right now. Your gift will help us continue to provide healthy meals for neighborhood residents. We really appreciate your support at this time.
If you get someone on the line, be prepared to have a conversation if they ask any questions. It’s also fine to leave a voice mail message.
Thank you so much for your generous gift of $50 in addition to your already generous monthly gifts. We really appreciate donors like you who are helping keep our food pantry stocked and operating during this difficult time for our clients.
Thank you again. We are so grateful for your support.
Keep in mind that your donors may not notice your email message because they’re getting so many right now. It will help if you include an enticing subject line such as Thanks from Meg at Reach Out And Read!
The subject line above is from an email message I received that included a personalized video.
This is something you could do. I was pleasantly surprised to receive such a nice thank you message.
If your donors don’t notice or open your email, you’ll have another opportunity to say thank you by mail as soon as it’s possible for you to do that.
No donation is too small
Every donor, whether she gives $5.00 or $500,000, gets an amazing thank you. People want to give, but some people can’t afford to give much right now, if at all.
Keep sending thank you messages to all your donors, whether or not they’ve given recently. You can’t say thank you enough.
Thanking donors in the future
In the future, let’s plan to go beyond transactional receipts. Remove those words from your landing pages and thank you letters. Create thank you templates that ooze with gratitude.
Create a gratitude practice
Cultivating a gratitude practice, both at your organization and in your personal life, will help you create an attitude of gratitude.
I used to work at an organization where we began each staff meeting saying what we were thankful for, trying to ensure everyone got thanked. This is something you could do now if you’re having virtual staff meetings.
In your personal life, find a time each day to think of a few things you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe you notice the azaleas blooming as you take a walk, practicing social distancing of course. Maybe it’s your family and friends. Maybe it’s chocolate.