What Comes Next

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I imagine most of you have sent out your year-end appeal. You may think your work is done for now, but it’s not.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to keep your donors for a long time.

Fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about building relationships and making your donors feel good about giving to your organization.

Some of you may already be doing what I’m going to suggest below. Kudos to you! But I can guarantee some of you aren’t doing these crucial relationship building steps.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

The key word here is good. A good thank you is not the same boring email or letter you’ve been using for way too long. A good thank you is also not something you send weeks after you’ve received a donation.

You want your donors to feel good about making a donation. A handwritten note or phone call is always better than a letter, but if you only have the means to do a letter, make it awesome.

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

The retention rate for new donors continues to be abysmal.

One way to help ensure people will give again is to create a welcome plan, which will provide you with ways to let your new donors know how much you appreciate them.

If you specifically welcome your new donors, you’ll stand out because most organizations don’t do this. Make sure your welcome plan consists of ways to communicate throughout the year and not just the initial welcome message. The following post has more helpful information on welcoming new donors. Nonprofit Retention: All Donors Aren’t Created Equal

Make your current donors feel special, too

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years? These are your valuable donors.

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

Make a plan to specifically recognize your long-term donors.

Send holiday and New Year’s greetings

The holidays give us the perfect opportunity to reach out. Send holiday and New Year’s greetings by mail or email. Do not include any type of ask with this. If you need to send fundraising reminders, make that a separate message.

Don’t hold back on your other donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end fundraising, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication. Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep going

Your first New Year’s resolution should be to communicate with your donors more. Many nonprofits seem to go quiet between fundraising campaigns. Don’t be one of them.

Keep reaching out to your donors – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on how they’re helping you make a difference.

Think of other ways to do something special for your donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help you with this.

Image via ImgCop.com

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Show Some Gratitude to Your Donors

Thanksgiving will be here soon and it’s a time of the year in the U.S. when we show gratitude to the special people in our lives. Do you extend this same gratitude to your donors?  It often doesn’t seem like it.

Nonprofit organizations tend to treat thanking their donors as an afterthought. But you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways you can show some gratitude to your donors.

Wish your donors a Happy Thanksgiving

Send your donors a special Thanksgiving message. If you can send a card or postcard, that’s great, but an email message is also fine.

Let your donors know how grateful you are to have them as part of your family. Share a success story and a photo or video. Your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message, especially when they’re being barraged with year-end appeals.

But don’t stop with Thanksgiving

While gratitude is often front and center around Thanksgiving, that shouldn’t stop you from showing some #donorlove at other times of the year. The holidays, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day pop up as natural times to show gratitude, but mix it up a little and find other times of the year to say thank you. In fact, you don’t even need a reason. Just thank your donors.

Whatever you decide, DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This is known as a thask and it’s guaranteed to deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Incorporate thanking your donors into your year-end fundraising campaign

Many of you are working on your year-end fundraising campaign. I know you’re trying to raise money, but you should also be showing gratitude. Does your appeal thank donors for their past or potential gifts?

Besides wishing your donors a Happy Thanksgiving, find other ways to show gratitude while you’re also sending appeals. This is especially important around #GivingTuesday, and I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Be ready to thank your donors as soon as you receive a donation

You’ve all heard you need to thank your donors right away, within 48 hours if you can. This usually doesn’t happen or it’s done poorly. Every single donor, no matter how much they’ve given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card/letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting your fundraising appeal out. Perhaps you’ve recruited other staff or volunteers to help you.

You need to do the same thing when you thank your donors. Get your board, other staff, and volunteers together to make phone calls, write thank you notes, or include a handwritten note on a thank you letter.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Your donors deserve more than just the same, lame generic thank you letter.

I write a lot about thanking donors. Here are a couple of recent posts that cover ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Give Your Online Donors The Recognition They Deserve

The initial thank you right after you receive a donation is important. So is the next one and the one after that and the one after that….

Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. You want to thank your donors at least once a month. Here are some ideas to show gratitude throughout the year.

  • Send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.
  • Send welcome packets to your new donors.
  • 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.
  • Give a huge shout out to your donors in your newsletters and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without their support.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Thank your donors just because they’re great.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

This Thanksgiving and throughout the year, show some gratitude to your donors. Don’t they deserve it?

Give Your Online Donors The Recognition They Deserve

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Many people donate online now. There’s a good reason for this. It’s usually fast and easy, or at least it should be.

One problem with online donations is the poor thank yous that come after your donor has given you a gift. Even though your thank you landing page and thank you email are automatically generated, doesn’t mean they need to sound like they were written by a robot.

Keep in mind that a human being is on the other end and deserves to be lavished with gratitude.

Here’s how you can do a better job with your online thank yous and give your donors the recognition they deserve.

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 usually about as engaging as an Amazon receipt. In fact, I’ve received online shopping receipts that are more personal than some nonprofit “thank you” landing pages.

Open with Thank you, Jenna! 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.

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.

I recently made a bunch of donations and here is the text from a couple of the thank you landing pages.

*************************************************************************************

Transaction Complete

Thank you for supporting X organization

For questions about this donation, please refer to donation number 10AC8199 in your correspondence.

A detailed receipt has been sent to ag@xxx

Click here to return to our homepage.

Receipt

Donation Number: 10AC8199

Ann Green, as per your selections on the previous screens, your one-time donation in the amount of $ has been charged to your Visa card on 09/18/2018.

*************************************************************************************

Okay, there are a lot of things wrong here. The first thing I see should not be Transaction Complete. I wouldn’t even use the word transaction. A donation is much more than a transaction.

It’s not until the second line that I actually get thanked. I’ve also been reduced to a number, which I guess is how the organization keeps track of their donations.

There’s nothing about how my gift will make a difference. I’ll give the organization a little bit of a pass. This was a donation to a local community foundation that set up a special fund in response to a recent emergency. They may not have had time to change their thank you landing page, but even a generic thank you for helping to make a difference in the community would have been better than this.

Speaking of better, here’s what I received after I supported someone in a charity walk.

*************************************************************************************

Thank You!

It’s official, you’re helping the American Cancer Society to save lives from breast cancer.

Your donation of $  has been applied towards X X’s fundraising goal. See how your donation will make a difference here. (Link to website)

Your transaction summary and receipt has been emailed to you at a@xxx.

Here are three ways you can maximize the value of your donation:

Employer Matching

Check with your human resources department to see if your company has a matching gift program. You could double your donation just by filling out a form.

Share Your Donation

Tell your friends and family you donated and encourage them to do the same. Or even better, have them join you in signing up for a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

Share via Facebook  Share via Twitter

Join a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Event

Each event is unique, but our true power lies in the combined commitment of thousands of participants. (link to join an event).

*************************************************************************************

The first thing you see here is THANK YOU! in big bold letters. You want to say thank you to your donors, not tell them they’ve completed a transaction. Then they went on to tell me how my gift is helping to make a difference and other ways to get involved.

It’s hard to get away from transaction mode, and while not an outstanding thank you landing page, this is better than the first one.

Here are more examples of good thank you landing pages.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

Creating a Stellar Thank You for Donating Page

Write an awesome thank you email

Start off by thinking of a good subject line. At the very least say Thank You! and not Donation Received. You want your thank you email to stand out in your donor’s ever-growing inbox.

Open your message with Thank You or You just did something incredible, and not the usual On Behalf of X organization. Then let the donor know how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

The subject line of the first organization I referenced above was Thank You for Supporting the X Emergency Fund!  Okay, but not great.

The body of the initial thank you email was just as uninspiring as the thank you landing page and was basically just a receipt.

*************************************************************************************

Dear Ann Green,   

Thank you for your online donation! Your donation has been successfully processed.   

DONATION NUMBER: 10AC8199     

DOLLAR AMOUNT: $

DATE AND TIME: 09/18/18 02:47 PM.   

PAYMENT METHOD: Your Visa card ending in

———————————-   

Thank you for supporting XXXX

Please print this e-mail for your records. No goods or services have been provided in consideration of this gift. For future questions about this donation please refer to the donation number in your correspondence.

If you have any comments or questions about this donation or about our organization, you may contact us at:

XXX

*************************************************************************************

There’s no human element to this at all. I hoped I would hear more about how my gift is helping to make a difference later and my wish was granted.

As I was working on this post, I received a second email a few days later that opened with.

Thank You

Your donation to X is helping to rebuild lives.

Some of the text included:  

We didn’t want another moment to go by without expressing our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you who donated.

Your donated dollars are a lifeline coming into these communities gripped by tragedy.

*************************************************************************************

Overall, the organization redeemed itself with the second thank you email, but their initial thank you a few days before didn’t leave a good first impression.

I think the lesson here is to have a good thank you email template in place, which you can modify as needed. Be sure yours looks like much more than a receipt.

The second organization opened their thank you email with the subject line You’re Helping Save Lives  Here’s the body of the message.

*************************************************************************************

Thank you Ann for donating to Making Strides of Boston.

By supporting the American Cancer Society, you ensure that no one dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis will walk alone. Your donation helps by funding research, providing free information and support services, and helping detect the disease early when it’s easiest to treat.

Increase Your Impact

Thank you for your gift. There are simple ways to make your gift even more impactful:

  1. Find out if your company offers matching gifts. It is an easy way to double your donation!
  2. Promote your support through social media. Tell everyone on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram about your work with our Making Strides walk. You may inspire others join you.

Join Us

Come to your local Making Strides event. You could even start your own team.

Thank you for helping save lives.

Sincerely,

XXX

Event Name: Making Strides of Boston
In Support Of: XXXX
Date: Sep 18, 2018 1:51:17 PM
Amount: $
Tracking Code: 1176-22848-1-38008066-39147184

 

Note: Your gift is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

*************************************************************************************

This one did a good job of thanking me. They told me how my gift would make a difference, gave me other ways to get involved, and included some engaging, colorful pictures.

Yes, there’s a receipt, which you should include in either a thank you email or letter, but AFTER you pour on the gratitude.

Again, don’t make your message sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

How to Create a Compelling Nonprofit Thank You Email

Making the thank you experience more personal

Since your thank you landing page and email are automatically generated, you can’t make them as personal as a handwritten note, phone call, or letter. That’s why you need to do at least one of those for your online donors. I wrote about that in my last post. Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level  An email thank you is not enough.

You won’t be able to segment much, but you should be able to distinguish between single gifts and monthly donations.

Your thank you landing page and email acknowledgment are just the beginning. Make them engaging and personal and keep up that theme as you continue to communicate with your donors throughout the year

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

7c3e1-4759535970_a0d6f918dfMany of you may be working on your year-end appeal, which is great, but have you given any thought to how you’ll thank your donors? Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last minute to-do item and it shows.

Thanking your donors is something you need to take seriously. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you letter. Take thanking your donors to the next level. Here’s how.

Start planning now

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Impress your donors with a handwritten thank you note

I’m a big fan of handwritten thank you notes. They will stand out in your donor’s mailbox. How often do you get a handwritten card?  

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank you party. Your donors will love it. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Kate,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. This will help us serve more students in our tutoring program. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past four years.

Phone calls will impress your donors, too

Another more personal way to thank your donors is with a phone call. Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Jeff, this is Tracy Saunders and I’m a board member at One Community. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an awesome letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an awesome thank you letter. Many thank you letters are mediocre at best, so you’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

This sounds obvious, but thank you letters are about thanking the donor. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something incredible.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And, don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

Let your donors know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out are to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You! If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal. You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end after you impress your donors with your letter. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

20 Engaging Ideas for Donation Thank You Letters

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

Something else you need to do is send different letters to different types of donors. Do not send everyone the same letter.

I’ve broken it down into four basic categories, but you could include others, if relevant.

New donors

The retention rate for first-time donors is abysmal. One of the reasons is poor communication. You can help boost your retention rate by making your new donors feel special.

New donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter welcoming them as donors. Invite them to connect with you in other ways such as signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, or volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome packet by mail or email. I’ll write more about welcoming new donors in the coming weeks.

New monthly donors

Brand new donors who opt for a monthly or other recurring donation get the same special treatment mentioned above. Welcome them to your family of monthly donors. Perhaps you have a special name for your monthly donors.

Current donors

One of the biggest hurdles nonprofits face is ensuring first-time donors give a second time. If they keep giving after that, they’re showing their commitment to your organization. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

Your current donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter letting them know how much you appreciate their continued support. If they’ve upgraded their gift, acknowledge that, too.

Current donors who become monthly donors

Your current donors who become monthly donors are also showing their commitment to you. They get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter thanking them for their continued support and for joining your family of monthly donors. From now on they should get specialized appeals and other communication targeted to monthly donors. More on that in a future post.

Yes, this will take extra work, but it will be worth it if you can boost your retention rate. Start working on your thank yous now so you’ll be ready to roll after your appeal goes out.

In my next post, I’ll write about how to do a better job with your online thank yous.

More thank you resources

Stewardship Techniques to Build Donor Relationships

Donor Stewardship: Create Lifelong Donors in 10 Steps

Are You Doing Better in 2018?

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It’s hard to believe we’re more than halfway through 2018. It doesn’t seem like that long ago I wrote this post –  How to Do Better in 2018

I hope your fundraising and communications are going well so far this year. Are they going well? Are you even paying attention to how things are going?

Let’s revisit that post from the beginning of the year. If things are going well for you, great. If not, I have some suggestions on how to do better, and for everyone – how to gear up for year-end.

Evaluate and plan

Are you meeting your goals so far? If not, do you a have a plan in place to get there? If you never made a fundraising plan for 2018, stop right there and put one together now.

Do’s and Don’ts for Your Annual Fundraising Plan

If you’re falling short of your fundraising goals, you may need to ramp up your year-end campaign. Also, your event may not be worth the trouble or you’re seeking out the wrong grant funders.

Spend Time Actually PLANNING to Raise More Money for Your Cause

Figure out your retention rate

Donor retention rates tend to be low. Do you know yours? If you’re behind in your fundraising, you may be losing donors. Figure out your retention rate now.

Retention rates are not that hard to fix, but you need to work at it. Better communication is often the key. More on how you can do a better job communicating with your donors later in the post.

6 Tactics for Increasing Donor Retention

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

Did you ever get in touch with people who didn’t give to your year-end appeal? Before this year’s campaign, figure out who didn’t give a year ago, but has donated in the last two or three years. Send them a special targeted letter telling them you miss them and want them back.

Then make a plan do the same thing in January for anyone who didn’t give. Here you could follow up with a phone call or email. This could help you raise additional revenue.

5 ways to win back your lapsed donors

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

A monthly or recurring giving program is a great way to raise more money. If you don’t have one, plan to promote monthly giving in your next campaign. To get more monthly donors, send a special targeted letter to current donors inviting them to become monthly donors.

Once someone has become a monthly donor, they should get their own appeal letter. One in which you thank them for being a monthly donor and politely ask them to increase their gift this year. Don’t send them a letter that asks for a one-time gift.

Other mistakes organizations make with their monthly giving program are not paying attention if a donor’s gift expires and doing a poor job of thanking their monthly donors.

You’ll notice I’ve made several recommendations to segment your appeal letters. This shows your donors you know who they are and should help you raise more money.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Most organizations don’t do a good job of thanking their donors. Perhaps they send a nice letter after they receive a donation, although that’s wishful thinking. But the donor love usually comes to a screeching halt after that.

Thanking donors is something you need to do throughout the year. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

A few things you should do before your year-end campaign. Take a look at your current thank you letter. If it’s not gushing with gratitude, write a new one. This goes for your thank you landing page and email acknowledgment, too. Make sure your letter is ready to go at the same time you launch your appeal. Don’t treat it as an afterthought and send something a month after you receive a donation. You’ll get gold stars if you can throw handwritten cards and/or phone calls into the mix, too. Finally, send a special thank you sometime early this fall. This could be a handwritten note or a postcard with an update. Something by mail is best, but if that’s impossible, you could send email.

Stay in touch throughout the year

This is another problem area. Many organizations go AWOL unless they’re asking for donations. It’s Kind of Quiet Out There Some send newsletters and updates, but these are often boring and focused too much on how great the organization is.

I know you’ll be busy, but you need to communicate more with your donors as you gear up for your year-end appeal. What’s In My Mailbox | How are you *warming up* your donors? You want to be on your donors’ good side come donation time.

Also, take a look at your newsletter and other donor communication. Are you leading with a story and focusing on how your donors are helping you make a difference?

You still have time to do better

If you’re falling short of your goals, you still have time to do better, but you have to work at it. Year-end is, of course, a great opportunity to raise money, as well as build relationships.

Be sure to keep evaluating your progress to help ensure a successful 2018.

 

If You’re Making a Difference,You Have Stories to Tell

11276455354_8e888bdc19_mWhen your donors open your appeal letter or newsletter, do you bore them with a bunch of mind-numbing statistics, or do you share a story about how the Clark family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own?

Donors want to hear your stories

You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but don’t use that as an excuse. Donors love stories and they want to hear yours. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

Mara woke up feeling good for the first time in a while. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her cousin’s house, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family. Everyone was stressed out and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Mara and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference for the people you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Break down your silos and work with your program staff to create stories that will help you connect with your donors. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Who are you helping?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference or How can your donors help you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. That’s okay, but instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she has a brother who’s struggled with mental health issues or he benefited from having a mentor.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. Share-Your-Story Page | an addition to the fundraiser’s arsenal of tools

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything. Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Kate doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Tell your donors the stories they want to hear. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Resources to help you tell your stories

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

Best Practices in Nonprofit Storytelling – How to Structure Your Stories

Top 10 Nonprofit Storytelling Best Practices

Photo by Howard Lake

The Importance of Having a Thank You Plan

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I’ve written about the importance of having a thank you plan before, but I think we need to revisit this because many nonprofits are not doing a good job of thanking their donors. You may have every intention to, but that’s not happening. Thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both.

A thank you plan will help. You probably have a fundraising plan and maybe a donor relations plan, but a specific thank you plan is just as important. Donor retention rates are poor and one reason is donors don’t feel appreciated. 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 often is just a boring receipt rather than something lets me feel good about making a donation.

Open with Thank you, Jeff! 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.

How To Optimize Your Donation Thank You Page + Examples Of Nonprofits Who Do It Right

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 and not something boring like Your Donation Receipt.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

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 if you can. 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. Calling your donors to thank them is something your board can do. It’s often a welcome surprise and can raise retention rates among first-time donors.

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 Jennifer Douglas and I’m a board member at the Lakeside 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, Jacob 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.

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

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Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because organizations usually send some kind of thank you letter after they receive a donation and then donor communication starts to wane after that. Thanking 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.