It’s Time for a Thank You Plan

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Do you think you’re doing a good job of thanking your donors? Think hard about this, because there’s a good chance you’re not. You may have every intention to, but thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both.

This is why you need a thank you plan. 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 continue to be 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 looks more like a boring receipt than something that’s going to make me feel good about making a donation.

Open with Thank you, Lisa! or You’re amazing!  Include an engaging photo 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 Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

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 that 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.

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 he’s given or whether he donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to him 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 roll when the donations come in.

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Mike Davis and I’m a board member at the Northside 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, Tara won’t go to bed hungry tonight.”

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.

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Steal This Thank You Letter! A Sample Donor Thank You Letter for Your Non-Profit

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.

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.

Photo via One Way Stock

Raise More Money With Monthly Gifts

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Although I often encourage monthly (or recurring) gifts as a great way to raise more money, I just started making them at the end of last year. I made all my pledges online, and it was easy to do.

It should also be relatively easy for you to start or grow a monthly giving program. Of course, this doesn’t just include asking for donations. You’ll need to thank your monthly donors and stay in touch throughout the year.

Here’s what you need to get started.

Make a special request

You should always promote monthly giving in your fundraising appeals. Your best bet to get a monthly commitment is long-term donors. One idea is to send specially targeted appeals to donors who have given for at least two years. Thank them for their past support and ask them to upgrade to becoming a monthly donor. Their previous donation of $50 could become $5 a month or $100 becomes $10 a month.

Make it easy

Be sure monthly or recurring giving options are prominent on your pledge form and donation page. Let your donors know what $5, $10, $15 etc a month will fund.

Make the online process easy, but keep in mind that some donors won’t want to set up their monthly giving online. Some may want to do this by mail or phone, and if it’s by phone, make sure there’s a friendly person on the other end to help them.

If possible, make one person responsible for monthly giving. There needs to be a contact person if your donor needs to change her credit card/bank account information or has questions.

Create an attitude of gratitude

Welcome your monthly donors with open arms. If they’re first-time donors, welcome them to your organization. If they’re current donors, thank them for going the extra mile and becoming a monthly donor.

Most of the organizations I donated to thanked me specifically for being a monthly donor. Some did it better than others.  One organization refers to their monthly donors as Friends for all Seasons. Another told me “I have joined an elite group of dedicated supporters we call our Friends of the Center.” Another thanked me for being a Monthly Partner.

These organizations are telling me I’m extra special, and most of my gifts were $5 a month.

Several organizations send me monthly thank you letters either by mail or email. While this is nice, most of them are exactly the same generic thank you every month. One sends a statement, but it includes a different update each month.

Here’s how you can do better. Yes, send your these donors a thank you each month, but don’t resort to the same old same old. One organization that helps low-income families does a good job of sending engaging updates. Here’s an excerpt from their most recent email thank you.
Boys with shoes

When a mother of three children picked up her children’s Kidpacks, she burst into tears and said “My kids will be so happy.” She couldn’t afford to spend extra money on new clothes, shoes, books or school supplies because she was barely making ends meet.

Much better than a boring letter or receipt.

Take your donors on a journey

You want to stay in touch with your monthly donors and let them know how they’re helping you make a difference. You can do this with your monthly thank you letters and other updates. You may also want to consider a special newsletter just for monthly donors.

Another idea is to introduce your monthly donors to an individual or family your organization is working with. Let’s say you run a tutoring program. You can introduce your donors to Kira and her tutor, Sophia. Each month you can share updates on how Sophia is helping Kira do better in school.

Make your monthly donors feel special

Of course, all your donors are special, but go out of your way to show the love to your monthly donors. Find creative ways to show appreciation. You could make a video or hold an open house just for monthly donors. You want them to stay committed to being monthly donors for a long time.

Erica Waasdorp is an expert in monthly giving and has tons of information to help you.

And here are some more monthly giving tips.

18 Tips to Create a Wildly Profitable Monthly Giving Program

3 Tried and True Techniques That Encourage Monthly Giving

 

Let Your Donors Know How Much You Appreciate Them

 

16317995822_f23087f3eb_z-1Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s a perfect opportunity to thank your donors and show how much you appreciate their support. Okay, maybe you think doing something for Valentine’s Day is hokey, but you should still do something fun and creative to show appreciation this month. The holidays are over, winter isn’t, and the world doesn’t feel like a very nice place right now, so we could all use a little pick-me-up.

This is also a good opportunity to stay in touch with the people who gave to your year-end appeal, especially first-time donors. If you haven’t shown any donor love since your year-end appeal, then you definitely need to reach out now.

Here are some ideas.

Create a thank you photo

Make your donor’s day with a great photo, like one of these.

 

You can send thank you photos via email and social media, use one to create a card, and include one on your thank you landing page.

Make a video

Videos are becoming an increasingly popular way to connect. Here are a couple that I received recently by email.

To Our Friends, With Gratitude

What You Made Possible in 2016

You’ll notice that both are short (and they need to be short), donor-centered, and show the organization’s work up close and personal.

Share an update or success story

In addition to saying thank you, share a brief update or success story. Emphasize how you couldn’t have helped someone without your donor’s support. For example – Thanks to you, Jenna won’t go to bed hungry tonight.

Send a card

A handwritten note will also brighten your donor’s day. If you don’t have the budget to send cards to everyone, send them to your most valuable donors. These may not be the ones who give you the most money. Do you have donors who have supported your organization for more than three years? How about more than five years? These are your valuable donors.

Another idea – Send a small number of thank you cards every month, ensuring that each donor gets at least one card a year. Spreading it out may be easier on your budget.

Thank You 101

Make this the year you do a better job of thanking your donors. Thank your donors right away and send a thank you note/letter or make a phone call. Electronic thank yous aren’t good enough.

Be personal and conversational when you thank your donors. Don’t use jargon or other language they won’t understand. Write from the heart, but be sincere. Give specific examples of how your donors are helping you make a difference.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to mail handwritten cards, is there a way you can change that? You may be able to get a print shop to donate cards. You can also look for additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover cards and postage.

Maybe you need a change of culture. Getting your board, all staff, and volunteers involved in thanking your donors will make a huge difference.

Keep thinking of ways to surprise and delight your donors! Get creative.

20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas

21 IDEAS TO REFRESH YOUR DONOR STEWARDSHIP

You can’t say thank you enough. Make a commitment to thank your donors at least once a month.

You don’t even need to wait for a holiday or special occasion. Just thank your donors because they’re incredible and you wouldn’t be able to make a difference without them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Year-End Fundraising – Part One

At the end of November, I made year-end donations to 25 organizations. Because I was worried about people who would be left behind in the new administration, 11 of these were new donations.

I wish I could tell you that all these organizations sent glowing thank you letters and have been following up with engaging updates and minimal additional requests for donations, but, alas, that is not the case.

Some organizations are doing a better job of communicating than others. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I experienced after I made my year-end donations.

Saying thank you

I made all my donations online, but only four organizations sent me thank you letters, and one sent a handwritten postcard. I’m a big believer in sending a thank you by mail or making a phone call even if someone donates online.

Two of the letters started with the dreaded “On behalf of.“ If you’re sending something on your letterhead, I already know it’s coming from your organization. The first words in your letter should be Thank you or something like You’re incredible.

One of the letters included a pre-printed Thank You! in big, bold, blue scripted letters at the top. Another opened with Welcome, and thanks so much … since I’m a new donor. These are simple things you can do to make your letters stand out.

All of the organizations sent email thank you messages. Some were generic receipts. Others opened with a story and an engaging photo.

Automatic emails won’t be personalized, which is why you should also thank by mail or phone. You can, however, still write a warm, heartfelt thank you message.

Another way to stand out is with a good email subject line. You have to include a subject line, so give some thought to it. Many of the organizations said thank you in the subject line.  One acknowledged it was a monthly gift.

A couple of good examples are Thank you, Ann and Thank you for your generosity. Some not so good examples are Donation received, Thank you.Your gift has been received (they get additional demerits for using the passive voice), and X organization Gift Acknowledgement

If you use a lame subject line, it’s less likely someone will even open your thank you email. Once they do, inspire them with opening lines such as You did something incredible, You are taking a stand for justice or You did something important.

Welcoming new donors

I made a number of first-time donations, but I’m not feeling a whole lot of new donor love. As mentioned above, I did get welcomed as a new donor and the thank you letter included links of ways to get involved.

One organization offered me a t-shirt, which I declined.  A thank you letter included contact information and a link to tell the organization why I supported them. Another invited me to take a tour of the organization, which is a great way to connect.

Otherwise, it was business as usual. Don’t fall into that trap. You need to go the extra mile to welcome new donors. With first-time donor retention rates at about 30%, you can’t afford to be complacent.

Monthly giving

This is the first time I’ve done monthly giving – approximately half of my gifts were monthly ones. I actually got more response to being a monthly donor than being a new one.

One organization gave me the name of a contact person if I needed to change anything. Another specifically sent me a story letting me know how my monthly donation is helping them make a difference.

Here’s a good example of a way to communicate your thanks to your monthly donors  –  I really can’t emphasize enough how much we appreciate our monthly donors. Your consistent support is the backbone of our program.  Another organization refers to their monthly donors as Friends for All Seasons.

A different organization sent me an email thank you acknowledgment for the second installment of my monthly gift. I assume this will be a regular occurrence, which is a great idea. You want to encourage monthly donations and ensure your donors will keep supporting you this way. Setting up an engaging thank you email to go out each month is a great start.

Stayed tuned for Part Two where I share the good, the bad, and the ugly of how these organizations are staying in touch, or not.

What You Can Learn from Your Donors

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Do you know why your donors give to your organization? Most likely they feel a connection to your cause. Most of us are good people and we want to help others.

I’m very upset about the results of the recent U.S. presidential election, which prompted me to donate to organizations that will help people/communities who will be left behind in the next administration.

There’s no question that nonprofit organizations do good work, but as a donor, I feel that many aren’t good at communicating this or making a personal connection with me.  

You hear a lot about how important it is to be donor-centered, but organizations need to practice this. You need to think from your donors’ perspective. This is what’s important to us.

Why should I give to your organization?

Why is it important to give to your organization now?  It doesn’t matter to me that it’s your annual appeal, #GivingTuesday, or the end of your fiscal year. I want to hear how you’re helping people or the community.

I don’t want a bunch of boring statistics either. Tell me a story. Show me how I can help make a difference for someone or in the community.

I also don’t need to hear about how great your organization is. If I’m a current donor, I wouldn’t have supported you if I hadn’t thought highly of you.

Do you really know me?

I’m barraged with fundraising appeals, especially at the end of the year. Some of them are from organizations I support and others aren’t. There’s not much difference between them. Most are generic with no regard for who I am. I guess I expect that from organizations I don’t support.

But it bothers me when organizations I’ve supported for many years never acknowledge that. It’s not that hard to segment your letters or add a handwritten note.

I’m always thankful for the few organizations who take the time to be more personal.

Let me know that you appreciate my gift

The generic automatically generated thank you email doesn’t cut it. I need something better. Let me know how much you appreciate my gift.

If I’m a new donor, welcome me.  If I’ve given before, thank me for my continued support.  Surprise me with a phone call, handwritten note, or at the very least, a heartfelt letter. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

I made a number of first-time donations this year, many of them monthly gifts. I’m curious to see how many of these organizations welcome me and do anything special for monthly donors.

Use language I understand

I don’t use words like at-risk and underserved and neither should you. Your jargon is boring and makes me gloss over your letter. Instead of using the term food insecurity, tell me families have to choose between buying groceries or paying the heating bill. Use plain language to help me understand your messages.  10 plain English principles for writing better web content

This feels like a transaction

Many fundraising appeals focus more on the transaction than the relationship. Yes, you’re trying to raise money, but you should also try to build a relationship with me.

I make a majority of my donations on #GivingTuesday. I almost dread opening my email inbox because there’s a relentless stream of Donate Now messages.

As a donor, I like the idea of #GivingTuesday and I’m always happy if there’s an opportunity for a matching gift, but it’s very transactional, and that includes the thank you experience or lack there of.

Whether you participate in #GivingTuesday or not, please keep your relationship with me front and center.

Don’t ignore me

After I give a donation, I want you to stay in touch, and that doesn’t mean blasting me with appeals. Send me updates on how my gift is making a difference.

Very few organizations do that and do it well. I’m always grateful when I get an endearing update like the one in this post. Knock it Out of the Park

Remember, your donors give to your organization because they care about what you do. Show them that you care about them, as well.

Low-Cost Fundraising: 6 Innovative Ideas

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By Kerri Moore

It’s hard to raise money and it’s more difficult if you have limited resources. In this post, Kerri Moore of Booster has some low-cost fundraising ideas for you. Some don’t even involve asking for money but emphasize building relationships with the donors you already have.


Low-cost fundraising isn’t just about saving your nonprofit some extra cash.

After all, a cost can be:

  • The time it takes to plan and execute a fundraising campaign or event.
  • The labor of your staff, volunteers, and fundraising team.
  • Net fundraising expenses, which you can measure as cost per dollar.

This might sound paradoxical, but to keep all of your costs low, your organization will need to make an investment. 1

An investment in your donors, that is.

It’s much more expensive to acquire new donors than it is to work with the supporters you already have.

That’s why building up donor relationships is the best way to keep fundraising costs low.

Check out these six innovative ideas that focus on your nonprofit’s relationship with your donors:

  1. Brand t-shirts and products.
  2. Strategize with social media.
  3. Host a thank-a-thon.
  4. Leverage your supporters.
  5. Host a community drive.
  6. Appeal for recurring donations.

Let’s get started with number 1.

1. Brand t-shirts and products.

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Low-cost product fundraisers are an effective way to entice donors to give without breaking your budget.

But to create long-term low-cost fundraising, you’ll need to brand your products so that donors become invested in your organization.

T-shirts are one of the most effective products, but there are plenty of options that can suit your organization’s needs, whether it be a school, church, or traditional nonprofit. 2

That said, t-shirts for your fundraising campaign allow supporters to:

  • Support your organization with a donation.
  • Promote your nonprofit by wearing the shirt and spreading the word.
  • Remind your supporters of your nonprofit and their connection to your cause.

That’s why it’s vital that you brand your t-shirts or products with the name of your fundraising campaign and/or your nonprofit’s name and logo.

Make your cause tangible on the shirts, so that anyone who sees them can understand your message. 3

Since t-shirts can be extremely affordable, or even free (with a cost per shirt sold, rather than an upfront charge), they’ll help keep your costs low. 4

2. Strategize with social media.

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With rising print costs, communicating and advertising over mail can be a strain on your organization’s budget.

While we would never advise that you forgo print communication channels, a strong social media strategy can supplement your print efforts and diminish your donor acquisition costs.

After all, social media allows your supporters to share information about your nonprofit with their own networks. Many peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns capitalize on social media for this very reason.

Producing quality material for social media is important and the internet offers plenty of free or affordable software to help you advertise on the web. 5

Social media integration for your online fundraising platform is important, and mobile-friendly pages are a must. 6

Beyond the technical basics, how can you use social media to keep your costs low?

  • Spread awareness with a hashtag. A hashtag is the perfect tool to advertise your fundraising campaign, and they’re free to make! You will, however, want to take the time to choose a hashtag that encompasses your campaign. Something simple, something catchy, an alluring alliteration — all of these factors are elements of a strong hashtag.
  • Host a soft launch. One of the most cost-effective means of building hype for your campaign is hosting a soft launch, where your supporters and board members donate to your campaign before it’s launched to the public. A soft launch taps into social psychology. If people see that others have already donated, then they’ll be more inclined to give themselves.
  • Live tweet your campaign. Twitter allows you to update your followers on your fundraising campaign — for free! A social media coordinator can post live updates about your campaign. A little wit goes a long way. You could, for example, tie your campaign into current, trending topics to attract retweets and favorites.

Creating an effective social media strategy is the perfect low-cost way to advertise your campaign and connect with more supporters.

3. Host a thank-a-thon.

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If you’ve heard of walkathons, you’ll get the gist of a thank-a-thon. 7  Your fundraising team, as well as volunteers, board members, and supporters, come together for an hour or two of pure gratitude to thank people for their recent donations.

If you can’t call everyone during the thank-a-thon, call major or mid-level donors with major donor potential. Calling first-time donors often results in repeat gifts.

This fundraising strategy does not involve asking for money.

Instead, you’re building stronger donor relationships in a single, deliberate effort, which will ultimately benefit your fundraising down the road. 8

A thank-a-thon is a low-cost activity that you can modify to suit your needs.

Besides making calls, you can, for example:

  • Hand-write thank you notes.
  • Thank each social media supporter in the comments.
  • Have each team member hold up a sign with a donor’s name, take a picture, and post it to your campaign’s Facebook page.

The possibilities are endless.

The goal is to go beyond your typical thanking strategy to ensure that your donors feel more appreciated at your organization than they do anywhere else.   

4. Leverage your supporters.

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Keeping your fundraising costs low means using the resources you already have to your advantage.

You can reach out to your supporters directly, or you can perform preliminary research and make targeted appeals. 9

Here are just a few ideas of how you can leverage your supporters:

  • Board members can host events. A fancy, intimate event is a staple of major donor relations, but venues, food, and entertainment costs can add up quickly. A board member may be able to offer a nice property or valuable connections that can cut overhead costs. Take 10 minutes during a meeting to have each member write down three possible contributions that they could offer.
  • Hold a skills clinic. Everyone has talent. Your organization is probably full of people with unique skill sets. A skills clinic allows your supporters to contribute to your organization and the community, all while having fun at a unique and cost-effective event.
  • Promote matching gifts. Many companies offer matching gifts opportunities, where a company will match their employees’ gifts. Taking a look at your supporters’ business affiliations can indicate who’s sitting on a donation that could be doubled. You can also promote matching gifts to your entire organization so that everyone is aware of the opportunity.

Whether you’re looking for business affiliations or valuable connections, keeping an organized database of your supporters can help you identify the people with the potential to offset costs — and further your cause! 10

5. Host a community drive.

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A community drive not only benefits your nonprofit, but it helps your community!

There are plenty of different ways that this type of campaign can work, but the concept is the same: supporters supply the products, and your nonprofit makes a nearly pure profit.

Here are some ideas for community drives that your organization can try:

  • Bottle and can drive.
  • Upcycled artwork.
  • Prom dress drive.
  • Used batteries.
  • Old cell phones.
  • Used book sale.

You can even turn some of these drives into an event or an auction to promote more fundraising. 11

Ultimately, your product drive should help people in your community or the environment.

The most important part of pulling off a community drive is spreading awareness so that people donate their recyclables or gently used products.

6. Appeal for recurring donations.

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A fundraising campaign can reap great rewards for your nonprofit, but part of keeping your cost-to-benefit ratio in good territory means planning for long-term success.

Recurring donations are a means for donors to continue their support after your fundraising campaign ends.

Creating a strong appeal for recurring donations can encourage supporters to make more than a one-time, in-the-moment donation when they give to your campaign. 12

You can, for example, emphasize the simplicity and ease of recurring donations (especially at churches, where recurring tithes are an easy way for supporters to make their weekly contributions). 13

Or, you can craft your campaign’s focus around recurring donations. For example, you can suggest that supporters give up one $30 meal per month to feed hungry children for 30 days. Hashtag with #30for30, and you’re set for low-cost fundraising!

Are you ready to innovate your low-cost fundraising? Well, don’t forget to keep your donors in mind.

Their relationships with your nonprofit are priceless, so building strong connections is the most cost-effective fundraising you can do!

Sources
  1. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/11/24/make-an-investment-in-your-donors/
  2. http://blog.booster.com/school-fundraising-ideas/
  3. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/03/04/steer-clear-of-generic/
  4. https://doublethedonation.com/product-fundraising-ideas/
  5. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2012/06/27/choose-quality-over-quantity-part-two-social-media/
  6. https://doublethedonation.com/nonprofit-software-and-resources/online-fundraising-guide/
  7. http://blog.booster.com/walkathon-guide/
  8. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/07/13/dont-treat-thanking-your-donors-as-an-afterthought/
  9. http://www.donorsearch.net/
  10. https://www.360matchpro.com/top-matching-gift-companies/
  11. http://www.bidpal.com/charity-auction-item-ideas/
  12. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/09/02/how-to-create-an-a-appeal-letter/
  13. https://www.atpay.com/church-management-tips/

Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She Headshot-Kerri-Mooreand her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.

Say Thank You Like You Mean It

 

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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.

Dear Janet,

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 bShih-Chieh “Ilya” Li