Did you know it’s actually more expensive to acquire new donors than it is to retain your existing ones? When you invest time and resources into your relationships with the donors you already have, you can reroute funds from donor acquisition back to your cause and build lasting donor relationships.
That’s where donor appreciation comes in. While you may already implement donor recognition strategies such as thanking donors for their contributions, you may not be doing so in the most effective way.
Fundraising guru Penelope Burk found in her research that donors define over-solicitation not by an excessive number of appeals but by being asked to give again before they knew their first gift had an impact.
Donors overwhelmingly desire more information about how their specific gifts are being used in order for them to feel motivated to keep giving. Out of over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, your donor chose to make their gift to yours. Make them feel celebrated and show how much their support means with the help of these five tips outlined in Penelope Burk’s first book, Donor-Centered Fundraising.
Thank yous are a centerpiece of your donor communication strategy. Put as much effort into them as you would your more public marketing materials such as newsletters or social media posts.
That means not being predictable. Donors expect you to lead with the perfunctory “Thank you on behalf of the board, the staff, and the clients we serve…” Yawn, yawn, yawn. Stand out!
Make donors feel they are there in the room with you. For example, if you’re a school, consider leading with something like “After finding out that they’d be going to the nation’s capital thanks to your generous gift, the screams and squeals from the 9th-grade class at the Ann Richard’s School for Young Women Leaders were positively deafening.”
You can also switch up your donor thank you format. Instead of emails or letters, consider thanking donors with charity eCards. eCards are a unique and engaging way to thank donors because they’re customizable and interactive. Some eCard platforms will even let donors click on their virtual envelope to simulate a physical thank you letter!
Additionally, eCards allow you to thank donors immediately after they contribute. The closer a thank you comes on the heels of a donation, the more likely the donor is to feel satisfied with their donation experience. This quick turnaround will improve donors’ likelihood of giving again in the future.
Thanking donors is meant for expressing gratitude and sharing the meaning of their gift, not for giving them homework or potentially offending them with another ask. Instead of asking for another gift, consider giving donors a gift to show your appreciation. ReCharity explains that donor gifts should be practical items, fit within your budget, and be personalized to each donor.
Donor gifts can be something as small as a bookmark or as large as a gift basket. Consider choosing different gifts for different donation tiers, with smaller gifts for smaller donations and larger gifts for major donors. Whichever type of gift you choose, your donors will appreciate you going the extra mile to show your appreciation.
How often do you change out your thank you copy? Try changing yours on a monthly basis, or better yet, having different copy for different donor segments. For example, you could create different copy for donors of different ages, with one for younger Gen Z donors, one for millennials, and so on. Include language and references that cater to each age group’s interests for a personal touch.
It’s also important to be transparent in your thank you copy and provide insight as to how donors’ gifts will be used. Show the gift in action with an image or anecdote from your beneficiaries. If you need inspiration for your thank you copy, check out eCardWidget’s donor thank you templates. You can use these as a starting point and adapt them to your own donors and organization.
Personalizing your thank yous shows that you care about your donors and their individual contributions to your organization.
Start by addressing donors by name. Then, reference your donors’ involvement. For example, if a donor contributed at a fundraising event, acknowledge their gift, reference specific details about the event, and tell them you’d love to see them again at an upcoming event.
A great way to ensure your thank yous are personal is by leveraging your nonprofit’s database. When you use data to inform your thank yous, you can individualize them even further and show that you’ve taken the time to learn more about your donors. For example, when thanking a major donor, reference how many years they’ve been a part of your organization's journey. Storing this information allows you to keep up with donors’ giving anniversaries and thank them not only when they give a new gift but also for lending their support for however many years.
Ideally, your organization sends out donor thank yous within 24-48 hours of receiving new donations. Try not to exceed five days, but late is better than never.
And when you approach your big gala, the end of your fiscal year, or the holidays, make sure you are prepared to allocate time and staff for follow-up accordingly. A weekly or daily stewardship “power hour” can ensure you’re thanking donors efficiently. The longer you keep your donors and cultivate them effectively, the more they will give over time!
Perhaps the quickest way to thank donors is via email, but don’t underestimate the power of direct mail. While some may think it’s outdated or ineffective, direct mail offers a physical reminder of your organization and your donors’ involvement. It shows that you’ve taken that extra step to appreciate your donors. For major donors, consider handwriting your thank you notes for an even more personal touch.
While organizations are often more focused on helping their beneficiaries, it’s important to create the best experience possible for your donors, too. These are the people who allow you to uphold your organization’s mission and carry out your cause with the help of their contributions.
Thanking donors makes them feel appreciated for their impact on your nonprofit and helps you build lasting relationships. That way, you have a continuously growing support network that is ready and eager to give back to your cause, empowering you to push your mission forward.