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Saying Thanks

Lori Halley 23 November 2011 0 comments

In honor of the American Thanksgiving holiday and this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, this post is about giving thanks.

I have to confess that when the call went out for submissions on Giving Thanks, I felt a bit at a loss, since I’m not a fundraising expert and I don’t have any “knock-your-socks-off” ideas or “rockstars of thank-you letter" examples. But then I realized that I could talk about thank you’s from a donor’s perspective. So here is my “two-cents-worth” on what’s important to me as a donor – and what might inspire me to keep giving.

Do you ever watch those TV programs where they try to persuade a prospective home owner to buy a property that needs major renovation?  The show host tries to convince the house hunters that they could turn the “fixer-upper” into their dream home. But many folks just can’t see past the house’s current state of disrepair to visualize the possible transformation.

I think many donors are like those home buyers.  They can’t imagine the impact their donation might have.  I’m that type of donor too. While I’m a pretty educated consumer and I can see the potential in a “handyman’s special” and visualize its transformation, as a donor I really need details to understand how my donation is going to help. I need you to show me the results!

So how does this relate to thanking donors?

Research confirms that “8 out of 10 first time donors do NOT make a second gift.”  So if you want your donor’s continued support, you need to show them how their donation makes a difference. And I think you need to start doing this from the very first thank you letter! 

And I’m not the only donor who wants details on how my donation is being used. In a post about thanking online donors in the Inspiring Generosity blog, they noted that The Cygnus Donor Survey - Where Philanthropy is Headed in 2011 reported that 53% of their respondents said that achieving and communicating measurable resultsis a prominent feature of not-for-profits that engender long term support.”

Demonstrating results

And to take the home-buying analogy even further, you can’t just offer the “would-be” home owners (or your donors) a vague description or layout. To convince them to invest in the renovations (or make another donation to your cause), you need to show them exactly how the finished room (or your cause/project) will turn out.

In fact, this is the first item on Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Thank You Letter Dos and Don’ts: “Do explain how the gift will be used,” but “Don’t speak in generalities about how the gift will be used” and “don’t be depressing. Donors want to know that their gifts are helping, not that the gift isn’t making a difference because the need is so great.”

Telling your story

I know, we bloggers are always talking about telling your story. And while you don’t want to drone on in a thank you letter, you can find ways to demonstrate results as well as directing donors to web pages or videos that help donors visualize the impact their support has made.

In a guest post for the NonprofitAbout.com blog, Terry Axelrod (author of The Joy of Fundraising), suggests that:

Donors want to see what their gifts allowed you to accomplish -- specific facts and stories of how they changed the lives of real people. …They want to hear about the women they helped shelter from domestic violence, the lonely senior citizens whose lives are brightened by your daily visits, …Share as much detail as you can about the progress you have made, the number of people you have expanded to reach, and the effectiveness of your work.

Instant Gratification

Of course, I recognize that it isn’t just what you say in the thank you email or letter – it’s also important that you send it right away!  As a donor, I want to receive an acknowledgement and thank you promptly, and with online donations this should be an automatic function.  But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice effective content for efficiency or speed.  If you are using donation software or membership management software with built-in donation acknowledgement emails, be sure to take the time to customize even the auto-responder emails that your system generates with some information and/or a link to a meaningful story.

As Pamela Grow notes in her call for Nonprofit Blog Carnival submissions, “when you think about how your organization’s thank you following your donor’s first gift sets the stage for future gifts, you’ll be putting an entirely different spin on saying thank you!”

If you want some great ideas on how organizations are expressing their gratitude to their donors, check out the November Nonprofit Blog Carnival - hosted by Pamela Grow - on November 30th.


Photo credit:  Orin Zebest's Flickr Photostream

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 23 November 2011 at 9:31 AM
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