Year-end fundraising season is underway and many of you may be working on your appeal letters. But have you given any thought to how you’ll thank your donors? If you’re thinking that’s something you can worry about after your appeal letters go out, you’re making a huge mistake.
Thanking donors often takes a back seat in fundraising campaigns, but it’s a crucial component that you need to start planning now. It’s often poorly done and I feel as if organizations thank their donors because someone told them they had to instead of it being something they want to do.
You can rise above the mediocrity and thank your donors like you mean it. Here’s how.
Do something special for your donors now
Do something special for your donors before you send your appeal. This could be a short thank you update you send by mail or email (mail is better). I received a couple of donor-focused updates recently. One had a big Thank You in the middle. The other opened with Your Giving in Action...
This post includes a great example. Knock it Out of the Park You could also send a postcard or give a special shout out to your donors in your newsletter, although all newsletters should be gratitude-focused anyway. Another option is to hold an open house. Why Having an Open House Makes Sense
Handwritten notes and phone calls make a huge difference
Make your donor’s day by sending a handwritten note or making a phone call. Start recruiting board members, staff, and other volunteers to help you with this. If you can’t send cards or make calls to all your donors, choose the ones you will reach out to. Calling new donors can help ensure they’ll donate again. You should also consider reaching out to long-term donors. Retention rates are still shaky, so you want to make an effort to keep your donors.
Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.
Hi, this is Paul Wilson 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.
Write a stellar letter
If you can’t send a handwritten note or make a phone call, then take the time to write a stellar thank you letter. All donors should get this letter, even if they’ve donated online. Getting something in the mail is more personal and your donor will be more likely to see it. Email thank yous tend to be more like receipts, although they don’t have to be. More on that later.
Your letter should not include the usual, boring “On Behalf of X organization…..” Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and leave out vague jargon such as at-risk or underserved.
Don’t send the same letter to each donor. Recognize past gifts and upgrades, and give a specific example of how the donation will make a difference.
Something like this.
You’re amazing! Because of your generous donation of $50,we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries.
Thank you so much for being a longtime donor!
You can also write personal notes on the letters. Think about including an eye-catching photo as well.
Here are some more ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.
5 Clever Ways to Improve Your Thank You Letters
4 More Clever Ways to Improve Your Thank You Letters
Steal This Thank You Letter! A Sample Donor Thank You Letter for Your Non-Profit
Give your donors an outstanding online experience
Many people donate online and that includes donating on a mobile device. Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you. It should be personal and not look like an Amazon shopping cart.
Open with Thank you, Diane! or You’re incredible! 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.
Speaking of the automatically generated thank you email, be sure it’s warm and personal. Make it slightly different than the thank you landing page. It only needs to be a few sentences, but make it good.
Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Take time to write something nice.
Remember, you’re not done yet. Even if someone donates online she should receive a thank you card, letter, or phone call as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours.
Here are some more ways to give your donors an outstanding online thank you.
5 ways to improve your online donation thank you page
21 Ideas For Your Nonprofit’s Donation Confirmation Page
Make your new donors feel welcome
Retention rates for first-time donors are awful. You want them to stay and your first step is to make these new donors feel welcome. Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your New Donors
Keep it up
Thanking your donors is a year-round commitment. It’s not just something you do after you get a donation. It needs to be a priority, and you need to thank your donors like you mean it.
Photo by Shih-Chieh “Ilya” Li