This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.
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!
Two things to celebrate today! I started this blog exactly two years today, and this is my 100th post.
No pressure or anything!
I just want to take a moment to reflect on the past two years, what it’s given me, and the role blogging has had in my life.
In the past two years, I was accepted to and started the Masters in Nonprofit Administration program at University of San Francisco. I moved from San Diego to the bay area to pursue this program and move back to where my family is. I have had two different jobs, and am thrilled to share that I am starting something new in the coming weeks! My new opportunity, while still in development, is at a higher level than I’ve worked before. I have a successful career, am learning like crazy in my Masters program, and continue to rock it in the nonprofit sector.
Blogging has so much to do with this. Through this blog, I have connected with thought leaders in the sector. When at networking events, people commonly recognize my name and ask “Chapin – are you Nonprofit Chapin?” I started this blog as a way for me to process my experience and thoughts about my experience in the sector. And while I still do that, and that will always be the core of this blog, a strong consequence of this has been that others have recognized and appreciate that I put my voice out there.
I am so grateful to all of you, my readers, for your participation in my experience, whether it be silent or spoken. Thank you!
Thanksgiving is so wonderful, because so many people are focusing on one of my favorite things in the world: gratitude. And while I enjoy all the Facebook posts, tweets, and texts of gratitude – the question is, why can’t we do that every day? In every aspect of our lives?
Here are a few ways you can be grateful every day.
- Say thank you. I know it sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how few people actually do it! So often people think, well obviously I’m grateful, so why do I need to actually say those two words? My personal mantra is that you can’t say thank you enough. Any time anyone does something nice – thank them! And it doesn’t have to be for you – if you notice someone doing something nice for someone else, feel free to thank them also! You’ll be surprised how much it makes their day.
- Think big picture. It’s obviously incredibly overwhelming to think of all the inequalities in the world, so think big picture but in a small way. Think about your neighbor who got laid off and can’t find a new job. Think of the homeless man you pass every day on your way to work. Now think about your situation. Not so bad, is it? If you have a roof over your head, a refrigerator with food, and clothes in your closet, you’re part of a very lucky few. Remember that in everything you do.
- Consider what you have and why it matters. Think of the things you value in your life, and whether you could work toward them in the same capacity if you weren’t so fortunate. One of my most important values is leaving a legacy. Yes, a legacy can be left even at the ground level, but I am fortunate to have been given the opportunities I needed to now be in a position where I can create change, and leave a legacy, on a bigger scale. I am grateful for the resources I have been given, not just because I can survive, but because they are helping me live out my most important values.
I love Thanksgiving because it encourages people to evaluate the things in their life for which they are grateful. But why can’t we do that every day? I’m here to say we can, and I hope the above three suggestions help you remember what you’re thankful for.