I feel like the theme of most of my posts over the last several months is this is more important than ever. This could be a tough fundraising season, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a campaign this fall.
Something that should help is 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 their donors after they receive a gift and then disappear until the next fundraising appeal.
With everything going on this year, your donors deserve heaps of gratitude.
Thanking your donors is something you need to do throughout the year – at least once a month, if you can. 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 shouldn’t resemble Amazon check out. It should make a person feel good about making a donation.
Open with Thank you, Jen or You’re amazing! Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help your clients/community right now (reference COVID-19). 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.
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 did something great today and not anything boring like Your Donation Receipt or Donation Received. And please stop using 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. I know it’s harder to do now, but it will be easier if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. Remember, thanking donors should be a priority. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.
Instead of sending the usual generic 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 (most likely via Zoom). 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/letter/email.
Hi, this is Rachel Clark and I’m a board member at the Riverside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can continue to provide neighborhood families with healthy food. This is great. Our numbers have almost tripled over the last few months and we know that will continue, so we really appreciate your support.
You’ll stand out if you can send a thank you card. I received a couple of cards this summer, both from the same organization, which shows you what they prioritize! One was a postcard with a handwritten note. The other was a lovely card with a pre-printed personal message (addressing me by name and including a gift amount). While not as personal as a handwritten note, it may be more doable.
If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. If you’ve been using the same letter template for a while, it’s time to freshen it up.
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, the Davis family can finally move into their own home. 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, 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. Remember to keep it current.
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.
You can use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors, but why not go one step further and create a specific thank you calendar.
Remember to 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 may not 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. And you don’t need a holiday or special occasion to thank your donors. Thank them just because….
- Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories, as well as how the current situations are affecting your work. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and other 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.
- Send a warm-up letter or email about a month before your next campaign (no ask). This is a great way to show appreciation BEFORE you send your appeals.
- While open houses and tours are off the table for now, you could do something virtual to let your donors see your nonprofit up close and personal.
- Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.
The post below references a donor acknowledgment plan for monthly donors with some personal ways to connect and you don’t have to come up with 12 different ideas. It’s okay to repeat some. While these are for monthly donors, and monthly donors should get their own thank yous, you can use them for other donors, too.
Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. You need your donors right now, so don’t hold back on that ever-important gratitude.