As we gear up for year-end fundraising, it’s important to remember to thank your donors for every fundraising campaign. I know it seems like we say it a lot, but it bears repeating—thank your donors. While this should be a common sense point to make, many organizations may stall on the thank you process because they aren’t sure of what their donors would want to hear, or what donors should be thanked.
Here are six tips for thanking your donors effectively, without it feeling like an afterthought.
1. Thank everyone! I know it is easier to thank only people who donate $250 or more, but you lose so much when you don’t offer at least a simple thank you to everyone. I’ve seen $10 a year donors turn around and leave an organization a huge bequest! To manage the workload, consider creating a strategy that thanks supporters by tiers—like “Gave $250 or more,” “$100 to $250,” “less than $100,” etc.
2. Get creative. Mailed thank you letters are always nice—especially with an actual signature—but when your thank you stands out it makes for a much stronger impression. My recent donation to a preschool was thanked by a student, and we keep the card on our fridge.
3. Make it at least a little personal. The extra time it takes to put pen to paper and sign a mail-merged thank you letter does go a long way. You don’t want your donors to feel like one of many—you want to make them feel special. A simple signature can help, a personal note is better, and a phone call is best.
4. The extra effort is worth it. When donors feel appreciated, they come back. Last year I donated to a local organization where I know both the Board President and Board Secretary personally. When we received our thank you letter it was signed by a person we didn’t know, without even a personal note from either acquaintance. It has caused us to reduce our gift this year because we feel they are not taking the time to strategically fundraise, and so we feel our gift would be better invested elsewhere.
5. Be timely. I know that it is a huge crunch at the end of the year to process donations and create your thank you letters. But don’t let the time get away from you. Thanking donors is important; thanking them in a timely manner gives a positive impression. Perhaps consider an online thank you in the short term, and sending the offline thank you’s on a more manageable timeframe.
6. Report on your progress. Showing donors the impact of their gift is the best way to say thank you. Try and report on your progress in a variety of ways— more than just the annual report of your standard stuff. Use technology, newsletters, phone calls, thank you letters, and TV ads (among other things) to show all of the amazing work you were able to accomplish because of your donors.
Repeat donors is the name of the game in fundraising. And that is where thank you letters come in. Not making it clear to your donors that you appreciate them and their financial contribution is the best way to lose a donor. No matter the size of the gift, someone has made a choice to donate to your organization instead of doing something else—donating to a different organization, buying a cup of coffee or a brand new car—and it is your job to help them feel like they made the right choice. Saying thank you is the minimum you should be doing to show your appreciation.