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How (Often) Do You Thank Your Donors?

January 16th, 2013

Sally* made a donation using her son’s name to test her organization’s acknowledgment policy.  The results were disappointing.  The letter took three weeks, his name was misspelled, and the gift was posted to the wrong fund.

“Although it bothered me that we had so many mistakes in one gift, I suppose it was a blessing in disguise,” Sally said.  “This allowed us to find several problem areas all at once – and work to fix them.”  If it hadn’t happened this way, she admits, it likely would have taken much longer to convince all required parties that such sweeping changes were necessary.

Thanking donors is the last, most crucial point of contact, because it is this part of the communication cycle that will likely make or break the chance that the donor will contribute again in the future.  Acknowledging the gift in a timely fashion is important, but more essential than timing is making the donor feel appreciated – and letting them know that their gift matters.

Recent research shows that providing a thank you gift, for example, may lead to lower (or no) future gifts, because donors take this as a sign that organizations are wasting the funds they receive, rather than making the best use of them.

The best way to show donors that their gift matters is to tell a story, or show it working in action, such as giving a tour or testimony of the recipients/beneficiaries.  Of course, not every donor can come to a single location, but with the web and video, your nonprofit can now provide online testimony and include links with thank you letters and emails.

Depending on how many donors you have, a follow up phone call from staff, board or volunteers, thanking them, can speak volumes as well.

Six months later, Sally asked her father-in-law to make a gift and share what he received and when.  Of course, she had given him specific instructions about making a detailed type of gift, to see if her team got it right, and was pleased to learn that they had!

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our donations and retention has increased since we improved our overall system of acknowledgment,” Sally said.  “Better customer service and record keeping has led to fewer people falling through the cracks.  Everyone wants to know that they are appreciated.  We always did appreciate them – we just didn’t demonstrate it very well before putting a thorough system in place.”

What can you do to make your donors feel more appreciated and a part of your organization . . . instead of just receiving statements from you every few months?

______________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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