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Saying Thank You Like You Mean It

As American Thanksgiving approaches and we take stock of all that we’re grateful for – are your donors and supporters at the top of your list? 

How are you thanking your supporters?

Of course non-profits and charities don’t need a special day to acknowledge the essential role your donors and supporters play in helping you meet your mission – right? After all, your donors receive confirmation emails and thank-you letters when they make a contribution – don’t they?

Well according to the many blog posts and articles I’ve read, many organizations aren’t sending thank-you letters to all donors. I’ve seen stats that suggest only 1 in 4 donors report receiving a thank you letter after their donation. And many who do are sending out un-personalized form letters. 

Showing gratitude inspires additional giving

Saying thank you for your donor’s generous support seems like a “no-brainer” since we all want to be thanked for our contributions. But saying thank you is not only a nice thing to do or the right thing to do, it’s also financially advantageous. As Penelope Burk suggests, “thank you letters are powerful and profitable” , since they can lead to additional contributions. Burk notes: “45% of donors said it was an outstanding thank you letter that inspired them to give again and 23% said they gave more generously because of the quality of the acknowledgement they received.”

But you’ve got to get personal 

As we've noted recently, your fundraising emails need to be “personal and powerful” - but so do your thank-you letters! This is confirmed by the Burk Donor Survey:

“40% of respondents said they had received at least one thank you letter in recent memory that they would describe as exceptional. Its warm, personal tone making the letter feel like it was written just for me was cited most often.”  
 

But how can small resource-strapped organizations manage this?

So donors are saying they’re not expecting any fancy sky-writing or video thank-you’s – just a warm, personalized letter or card. But sending out automated email confirmations and personalized thank you letters may sound simple enough for large non-profits or charities with ample staff. But this can prove challenging for small organizations are often resource-strapped, managing with a small group of dedicated volunteers or a skeleton staff.

Yet while small groups may struggle to simply manage their good works, it’s clear that for those who rely on donations to fund their efforts, saying thank you to donors also needs to be a priority. 

Technology can help:

If your organization is struggling with manual systems, technology can offer some support. You can consider using fundraising management software that generates automatic email confirmations and enables you to create personalized thank you emails. In addition, your member or donor database can be used to track information that will help you personalize your communications with donors. 

Can volunteers help too?

To ensure you personalize thank-you’s for maximum impact, consider gathering a team of volunteers (Board members, communications committee members, etc.) to help. You can segment your list to spread the workload around and these volunteers can also sign the letters and even add a customized note to each donor. Having letters personally signed is high on the wish list based on donor research as well as fundraising experts. As the survey stats suggest above, having the thank you letter sent by a “prominent figure” in your organization is key. Perhaps you can arrange time at each monthly board meeting to have the Chair or President sign all of the thank-you’s. 

Personalizing pointers – the 4 P’s

Creating personalized messages to donors doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be a costly endeavor. But to have a powerful impact, you might want to ensure your thank you letters follow these 4 P’s. Thank you letters should be:

  1. Prompt – consistently sent out as soon as possible
  2. Personalized – speaking directly to the donor and about their specific gift
  3. Passionate – conveying (in a warm tone) gratitude and explaining how the funds will be used to stoke the passion that prompted the contribution
  4. Positive – making donors smile and feel pride through an upbeat message (not a call for additional assistance) 

There are also a few faux pas to avoid: 

  • Make sure the salutation isn’t a show stopper! To borrow a line from the movie Jerry Maguire: “you had me at hello” - your first two words – “Dear xxx” can have a huge impact on your thank you letter or email. So, here are a few tips on getting the hello or welcome right:

    • Never say “dear donor or member or supporter” - remember it needs to be personal
    • Dear [first name] – is probably best, but ensure your database has correct first names for all members so you don’t end up with a “Dear blank” or worse, “Dear first name”!
    • Also get the Ms., Mr., or Mrs. right – since getting the supporter’s gender sure signals you don’t know this donor!
  • Be sure all letters are proofed to ensure information is correct (e.g., their donation, gift etc.) and there are no spelling mistakes.
  • Don’t include another “ask” or suggestion to upgrade to another program/more frequent 

So this Thanksgiving – say thank you for your donors and supporters. And in your year-end campaign and your planning for 2014, make it a priority to give your donors what they want – personal, prompt thank-you’s.

Say thank you like you really mean it and the research suggests you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts.

Image source:  Skywriter writing the word thanks - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Friday, 22 November 2013 at 8:30 AM
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