This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. Listen to the episode below!
Happy New Year! Now that you’ve received a mountain of donations for your cause (hopefully!), it’s time to get down to business and say something important to your donors: thank you.
Before getting down and dirty with your donor recognition, let’s take a moment to remember why it’s important. In the everyday madness of running your organization, it can be easy to take your donors for granted. But saying thank you – and stewarding donors – will pay off in the long run.
Donor retention (getting a donor to give more than one year in a row) is vastly more cost effective than donor acquisition (recruiting a brand new donor from the general community). And the best way to retain a donor is to say thank you and illustrate the impact their donation made.
Now let’s get down to it. Before we talk about how you can say thank you immediately, remember that involving your board and other volunteers is critical. As a donor, receiving a call or note from someone who’s not getting paid by the organization is very powerful. Plus, you can’t do everything yourself!
Here’s a few ways you can say thank you to your donors immediately.
- Consider doing a thank-a-thon. Depending on your group, you can do a lunchtime event with pizza or an early evening event with wine and cheese, and invite board members, volunteers, and program staff to make calls.
- Prepare a script that your volunteers can go off of. Keep it short and sweet – name, affiliation with the organization, thank you for the donation, and perhaps a short comment about why it made a difference. Personalizing it is even better. Don’t forget to smile, too!
- In the donor lists for your volunteers to call, and include: name, phone, donation amount or range, and year they’ve been donating since.
- Save major donors to get calls from the board chair, executive director or other management staff.
- Send acknowledgment letters immediately (or as soon as possible, within a week), for tax purposes & immediate communication from the organization.
- Prepare some inexpensive notecards – you can ask volunteers to handwrite some and return to you to send out.
Don’t forget to record all of this activity in your donor database!
Here’s a few ways you can create a culture of gratitude throughout the year.
- Pay attention to your customer service. Make sure everyone in your organization is saying thank you to anyone who is a donor. If you’re sending an email, say thank you in the beginning and at the end of the message.
- Try to recognize small moments like birthdays or donor anniversaries – donors are often only receiving solicitations from nonprofits, so it’s nice for them to receive other types of communications, even if they are informal.
- Consider doing a mid-year stewardship mailing. Mid-year is a great time, keeping them updated on what’s going on and priming them for an end of year ask. Make the mailing directly related to your mission, and have fun with it!
These tips may seem obvious, but you might be surprised how many nonprofits don’t take the chance to say thank you beyond the standard acknowledgment letter. A little gratitude goes a long way, so make it a goal to implement even just one of these tips this year. You’ll see your donor retention rates improve!
And thank you!