You may have started working on your year-end appeal. Just as important, if not more important, is planning how you’ll thank your donors.
Some of the themes of 2020 should be – this is more important than ever and planning ahead.
Many organizations leave thanking their donors as a last-minute to-do item and it shows. You can’t do that this year, as well as in future years. You may have a harder time getting donations right now. If someone gives to your organization, they deserve to be showered with gratitude.
There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. The more you can do, the better.
Thanking your donors is something you need to do well. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you.
Here are a few ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.
Start planning now
Don’t wait until the day after your appeal goes out. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.
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.
I understand that handwritten notes and phone calls may be hard to do right now. 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.
Brighten your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note
I love it when a nonprofit sends a handwritten thank you note. This is a rare occurrence, so if you do this, your thank you note will stand out in your donor’s mailbox.
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.
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 to help with this.
Think about how much your donors will appreciate this nice gesture. Here’s a sample note.
Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. We’ve been serving three times the number of people at the Northside Community Food Bank. Your generous gift will help a lot. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past five years.
Phone calls are another personal way to show some donor love
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 to help. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short virtual training at first. Here’s a sample phone script.
Hi Bob, this is Diana Turner and I’m a board member at the Northside Community Food Bank. Thank you so much for your generous donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help feed more local families during this difficult time.
Write an incredible thank you letter
If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an incredible thank you letter. Many thank you letters aren’t incredible and are mediocre at best. You’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.
The purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donors. Keep that in mind at all times.
Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization…. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be obvious it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with – Thank you or You’re amazing! Here’s another example from a letter I recently received – What a great friend you are to …….
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. You can ask again another time. Keep gratitude front and center.
Write separate thank you letters for different types of donors. Welcome new donors and welcome back your current donors. Monthly donors should also get special recognition.
Your thank you letter needs to make your donors feel good about giving to your organization. Let them know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example. Make it relevant to the current climate.
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, use a nice stamp, 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, or include it on a separate page. 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.
An example from an organization that did it right
I mentioned the opening line from a recent thank you letter I received. This organization, a local theatre that’s unable to do live performances until sometime next year, did a lot of things right with their letter. Starting with sending the letter right away. I was surprised to get it so quickly, although 48 hours is what’s recommended, but rarely followed.
The envelope was hand addressed and the letter included phrases like – you are providing a sense of stability and hope as we all continue to navigate through these uncharted waters, and X theatre is still here – and is still strong – because of you! The phrase because of you is a must in a thank you letter. This letter also included a handwritten note saying – Looking forward to welcoming you back……
With everything that’s going on right now, it’s crucial to do a good job of thanking your donors, both now and throughout the year. In my next post, I’ll share some ways to improve your online thank yous.
Here’s more on thanking your donors.