Saying thank you is a critical part of fundraising.
Sometimes, we can focus most attention on getting a gift. But great thanks are key to getting the next gift.
Here are 12 ideas of how to thank your donors.
1. A prompt, personal, sincere thank you letter
This is the least you should do, of course. But don’t toss it off. Make your thank you letter great by focusing on the donor.
Remember, a letter is from one person to one person. Don’t write “on behalf of the board of directors”. Write from you (or whoever will sign) and write from the heart.
Thank them for their specific gift. Mention what it will do.
And please remember, this isn’t a public relations exercise. It’s not about you.
2. A prompt, personal, sincere phone call from staff
3. A prompt, personal, sincere phone call from the ED
4. A prompt, personal, sincere phone call from a board member
A phone call – just to say thank you – can be a lovely surprise for donors.
But first, be sure the donor hasn’t asked not to be called. (Personally, I don’t really like the calls, even when they’re well-done. I’m not a phone person.)
Second, remember this is ONLY about thanks. Third, use the opportunity to listen. You may learn something very useful!
5. A “just thanks” letter when it’s not expected
This isn’t the thank you letter after a gift.
Find a reason not tied to a particular gift. Perhaps identify a group of very loyal donors. Write and thank them for that loyalty. Tell them what it’s accomplished. And that’s all.
No ask. No envelope. Just thanks.
6. An offer of a tour
Not every donor will want to become more involved. But you never know.
So offer a tour that can help donors see the work they make possible up close.
Be sure to track those who take you up on the offer (there won’t be many). They’re likely to be passionate about your cause. Cultivate that passion.
7. A dedicated staff person for their questions
This is another offer that won’t cost you much and can make a difference. Designate a staff person – maybe you – and make sure donors know they have access to that person. Encourage them to call with questions or concerns. Then make sure the call is answered.
As with tours, you won’t get many who take you up on this.
But knowing that they can call is important. You might not believe it, but donors take your work seriously and usually hate to disturb you. Make it clear they are your work and you welcome their calls.
8. Staff – especially fundraising – whose contact information can easily be found on the website
This is another mandatory one for me. Do not hide your fundraising staff!
Make sure donors and potential donors can find you on the website. Make it clear you are available.
I once had a problem with a gift. There were no staff contacts on the organization’s site. None.
I finally found the number for a donation call center. The person on the other end was nice, but not who I needed.
If you’re fundraising staff, you’re public-facing. Be sure you can be found.
9. Newsletters that celebrate donors, not the organization – and show donors their impact
I’ve mentioned how much I love newsletters before. (I’m talking print newsletters, here. I don’t know that anyone has succeeded in creating an emailed newsletter that has the same effect.)
I love them because they thank donors, they inform donors… and also let donors know their continuing support matters.
IF they’re written well – that is, focused on the donor and full of great stories – donors love them.
10. Invitations to small events (low-key, inexpensive) with other donors
This is another way to just say thanks. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Cheese and crackers will do the job – or dessert. It’s great to have someone who can speak on a topic connected to the mission. That could be a staff person.
Of course, you don’t charge for this. Be sure you’re clear about that when you send an invitation. They’re invited because they matter and you want to say thank you.
Donors enjoy the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Invite them, mingle with them, introduce them to others. They’ll remember a pleasant experience and associate it with you.
If you can send your donors off with a small gift, that’s even better! (Not necessary, though.)
11. Requests for their feedback – and follow-through on what you learn
The best way to do this is to build feedback into the whole process. It’s easier to do online, of course. But so long as you’re respectful of their time (no phone calls at dinner, please), people like to tell you what they think.
You can also create a donor survey. It’s a great way to let donors know what they think matters to you – and to learn a great deal about your donors.
12. Getting their records right – data matters
Who likes to see their name misspelled? Who likes the chore of calling to correct it?
What about their giving history? If you print a donor list, be sure you have the information correct.
Sometimes, the little things matter a lot. So don’t treat data like it’s the last thing on your to-do list.
Thank you isn’t a one-time thing
Of course, you hope to be saying thank you often because donors are giving often.
Be sure you focus as much on gratitude as income.
Your goal? Make thanks part of an ongoing conversation with your donors.