The beginning of a new year is just around the corner, and such times often mean new beginnings for all of us in some way, whether it’s personal goals or business ones. 2019 may be the year for you to reevaluate when and how you’re thanking your donors!
In our blog post about preparing for Giving Season, we provided some pretty startling facts: 70% of nonprofits don’t send a follow-up thank-you to their donors within 30 days of the donation. 37% of nonprofits don’t send a follow-up thank-you to their donors…at all. But thanking your donors is a critical necessity if you plan on retaining and growing your donor base:
In the spirit of Giving Season, and because we know you’ve got plenty of donors to think about, we want to bring you tips right now for how you can jump-start your thank-you program, or improve upon it for the next year:
- Segment your audience. When you think about it, thanking your donors is really a vital part of your marketing efforts, without being self-promotional. Considering that, you have to practice segmenting like you would do with any other marketing efforts. For instance, you should be sending a different type of thank-you to people who are first-time donors than you send to those who are repeat donors, or those who have donated financially versus those who have donated their time:
“Thank you for getting involved with Charity A–we’re happy to have you as a donor!”
“Thank you for your continued support of Charity A; your consistent gifts help keep our cause alive.”
“We’re so happy you gave your Tuesday to our shelter.”
“Your continued presence at our shelter helps forge lasting bonds and creates trust with those you speak to.”
- Make your thank-you truly personal. Once you have your donors segmented, you can start to better personalize your gratitude. Although you may need to start with a form letter (or form email,) no one wants to feel like they’re on the receiving end of mass communication, especially if they’ve made a gift of their money or time. Segmenting your donors will help avoid an impersonal feel, and using their first name in an email or letter will help them feel like you are truly thankful for their gift to you. Depending on your medium (and I’ll get to that a little later on,) you can go all out in personalization in a variety of ways: adding your actual hand-written signature to a letter, enclosing a photo of the person, child, animal, or other part of your cause that this person individually helped, or getting the beneficiaries of the gifts involved in writing thank-you notes. But at the very least, if you are sending an email, you can keep it personal by thanking the person for their respective contribution (segmentation,) and using their name.
- Gratitude should come quickly. 30 days is a long time to wait on a thank-you. I’ve read stories of donors who have thought their gifts got lost in the mail because they never did hear back from the nonprofit they gave to. You don’t want to be the embarrassed voice on the other end of the phone saying yes, you did receive their gift, and yes, you are thankful, but you just haven’t had time to send out the thank-yous. This is why email is extremely important and can come in handy, especially in the age of automated scheduling. You can set up emails to send out to donors as soon as they’ve given their gift online, or immediately after their volunteer shift ends. If you are able, get a thank-you out within 24-48 hours of the donor’s contribution. Remember that when you do something good, you like to feel appreciated right away…not weeks after the fact. Your donors are no different.
- Vary your mediums for thank-yous. As I mentioned before, you don’t need to stick with just email. While speed is important, it’s equally important to properly convey both personalization as well as the real impact of the donor’s gift. Send an email as an initial thank-you within 24-48 hours, and then follow up with another form of thanks in an even more personalized and unique form. A few ideas:
- An informal video of the founder or president saying “thank you”
- A handwritten letter of thanks
- A typed letter with a handwritten signature from the founder or president
- If your nonprofit works with kids, have children draw pictures to say “thank you”
- If your nonprofit works with animals, put paw prints on a thank-you letter
- A photo of your organization or of the specific cause they helped or specific individual who benefited from their gift
- A breakdown of what your organization can pay for because of the donor’s contribution
- Connect your thanks to the impact of the gift. Not only does a donor want to feel like they are personally appreciated, but they want to truly understand just what their contribution did to help. You can connect them to the impact by using some of the thank-you mediums listed above, or perhaps by telling a story about your cause and how far one gift can go. Maybe you can’t be certain if the funds from your donors went directly to your beneficiaries, but you do know that it bought them much-needed supplies. Or that it afforded you envelopes and stamps to be able to send out a new awareness campaign. Or that it gave you enough to hire that desperately-needed admin help. Or that their volunteering time was something that was talked about afterward, glowingly. Don’t feel like any impact is too small or too menial or not worth mentioning; help your donors instead understand that their contributions help keep the lights on, which is the most important thing of all–it’s the only way you can continue to be there for your beneficiaries.
- Bonus tip: Don’t thank your donors with a gift. Research has shown that giving gifts to donors as thank-yous actually has an adverse affect on the giving spirit, increasing a “feeling of selfishness” among donors. On top of that, you have to put those gifts in the budget somewhere–remember when I said that no impact is too small or too menial? It might be too questionable if your donors feel like all their money did was help buy them the gift that you just gave them as a thank-you.
With Giving Season almost over and 2016 right around the corner, start evaluating your thank-you procedures now and try to implement a few things into your current plan! If you are looking for more time to spend on thank-yous and less time to spend managing your grants from a spreadsheet, contact us for a demo of our software!
What was your favorite tip? Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment below!