For nonprofit organizations, being a good steward boils down to two things–demonstrating gratitude and demonstrating to donors that their gifts are being used effectively and efficiently. I’d like to talk about the gratitude aspect, because I think it is an area where many nonprofits fall short, and that makes it rich with opportunities.
I cringe when I crack open a window envelope from one organization I support to find a tax receipt with a hurriedly scribbled “Thanks!” written in ballpoint pen. Seems a little lacking, especially when it arrives the same day as a heartfelt, handwritten note from a recent high-school grad who received a small gift from me.
Time spent increasing and improving the way you thank donors will pay off, I guarantee, in increased loyalty and quite possibly, larger gifts. Here are some ideas.
Call donors and say thank you personally
Remember phone calls? Ah, it is so nice to get one every now and then, especially when it is someone calling to thank us. Have staff and volunteers spend some time each month calling donors. Ditch the canned script and encourage them to speak from the heart. Here’s an example: “I want to say thank you for the $100 gift you sent. It means so much. Did you know that with that amount of money, we can feed a homeless family of four for a week?” While the donor is on the phone, ask if they have questions or suggestions. Answer their questions — or find the answer and call them back– and write down suggestions, passing them along to your organization’s leaders.
Say thank you with a video
Everyone likes to watch a video, especially a short one. Incorporate people or projects that benefit from your recent fundraising efforts. Make it short, sweet and snappy. No more than 2 or 3 minutes.
A small gift can mean a lot
A little gift–don’t go overboard because donors will, rightly, start to question how you are using their money–can be nice. Tie it back to your organization. A simple sticker with your organization’s logo or motto is inexpensive and easy to mail. An animal rescue organization in my area produces an annual calendar featuring photos of the critters it has placed in forever homes. The calendar would be a great gift for donors–a daily reminder of the mission their gift supports.
Reach out with handwritten notes and heartfelt messages
Another old-fashioned way to thank someone? The handwritten thank-you note. Instead of the staid, “Thank you for your gift of …..” how about this: “We are all so excited, as we watch the new research building go up, brick by brick. You helped build it, and as the scientists who work in this facility make scientific breakthroughs, you can feel proud to know that without your gift, they wouldn’t have had this state-of-the art facility to support them in their work.”
Regularly revise and refresh thank you form letters and responders
If you use a thank-you form letter, update it at least once a year. Personalize it in as many ways as possible, using all the data you have available–from the amount of money a donor gave to the year they graduated and their connection to your institution. Tell them how their gift is being used–people do want to know. It often pays to have a professional copy writer look over your letter and tweak it to make it friendlier, add more specific content and examples and find new ways to personalize a template.
The same goes for your online gift auto responder. A generic “thank you for your gift,” is underwhelming. Like your letters and other communications, make these automatic responses seem less computerized by personalizing them as much as possible.
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