Thanking donors is the cornerstone of a successful nonprofit’s donor retention and stewardship program. That’s because saying thanks is not only about showing gratitude and good manners, but rather a way of building relationships with your organization’s donors. To put it simply, don’t overlook the importance of thank yous to your donors, or you may lose them.
We’ve provided a little guidance to help you creatively thank donors for their donations below.
Principles of an Effective Thank You Letter
If donors don’t receive a thank you immediately following a donation, they may feel unappreciated or get the impression that your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth to pull off your mission. Keep these principles in mind when crafting donor thank you letters:
- Thank yous need to be sent in a timely manner. Sending a thank you at the end of the year or for tax season doesn’t cut it.
- Thank yous need to be personal. Make your “thank you” as personal as possible, so that donors feel appreciated.
- Explain the impact of their donation in the thank you. Include an impactful image, when possible. Taking the time to speak to this will hearten donors, as they want to know how they’ll make a difference.
- You can never thank donors too frequently. Thanking donors at times least expected is not only a pleasant surprise but expresses how grateful your organization is throughout the year.
- Write to donors by name when thanking them. Show them you took the time to consider them by saying Dear Delilah as opposed to Dear Donor.
- Always enclose a receipt when thanking donors for gifts.
Creative Ways to Thank Donors
Thank you letters or emails are important when supporters have donated money to your charity organization. But don’t forget that thank yous should also be used when a supporter has volunteered, spent time on a project, or endless hours on your board. Expressing your appreciation for a supporter’s specific efforts and dedication encourages them to continue to give. Too often letters of thanks only come to donors for monetary gifts.
Let’s discuss some creative ways to thank yous supporters and keep them engaged with your organization.
Thanking Donors by Phone
Placing calls when donors give is an effective way of staying in touch, as it is personalized and allows for a relaxed conversation. Donors may express concerns or ask questions, creating communication and understanding of your mission.
Donors may have a connection with a certain staff member, program director, or board member at your charity. If so, this is the person who should make the thank you call.
Creating a stewardship list within your nonprofit CRM is a good way to track thank-you calls. Lists are connected to individual donor records. Each call thanking donors should have a notation placed on their record. Create a stewardship list for each key player in your charity – board members, staff, program directors, volunteers, and your executive director. Continually assign new donors to their lists. They’ll keep in touch with the ones they know, and establish relationships with new donors.
Invite Them to Coffee
Schedule a coffee date to thank key donors in person, outside of the office setting. This gives you the chance to share the impact of their donation and further engage your donor, without necessarily asking them for anything. Coffee meetings can also give you the opportunity to introduce donors to other key players within your organization.
Thank You Letters with Something Extra
A thank you letter is as important as your fundraising ask. Leave donors thinking you truly appreciate them through sincere, heartfelt letters. If you can handwrite a letter, all the better.
Adding something special to the letter is another good idea to boost the impact. Small and thoughtful gifts can make a big difference to your supporters. It’s best if the gift is directly linked to your mission and the positive impact of your work. This could be a craft made by the children or women your program supports, or a photo from the frontlines.
Customized merchandise with your organization’s logo is another popular option. Thank your donors and get them to help spread the word by wearing a branded t-shirt or using a recycled shopping bag with your charity logo.
Thanking Donors on Social Media
Storytelling about your donors and mission can be as engaging as a great book. Add the global reach social media has, and emotionally reaching potential donors is far-reaching.
Videos and authentic photos tell stories too. Perhaps your team can create a video status report on the impact donations are having. As donors hear how their gifts are building programs, they’ll be encouraged. Consider publishing personal interviews with donors and volunteers.
Quarterly streaming sessions for thanking donors provide an opportunity to highlight a few donors each time. Add any staff members to the time slot who have a special relationship with those donors. Go in-depth on the program or services their donation has made possible. Draw other donors who are listening to get emotionally connected to your programs.
Thanking Donors with a Personal Video
Personalized thank you videos hold the potential to touch donors. They hear your voice and see you say thanks to them in a video they can share. An effective place to create a personalized video thanking donors is onsite with those you serve. Standing along a river bed or clean park that a donor’s gift has helped to restore is also effective.
Offer Donor Appreciation Events or Tickets
Thanking donors by holding donor appreciation events provides opportunities, as well as showing your gratitude. A casual social mixer is a way to show staff unity and share stories of your nonprofit. Field trips that include a picnic or evening barbecue are also great ways to say thanks to donors. Special VIP invites to your wine-tasting fundraiser or charity gala brings new and old supporters closer to your nonprofit fundraising mission.
Another event designed for thanking donors is an open house. Serve refreshments and engage a board member to be an entertaining master of ceremony. Encourage donors and volunteers to bring a friend if space allows.
How to Thank Sponsors
Here we are talking about charity sponsors such as local businesses or large corporations that offer aid to your charity or fundraising event in order to increase its success. Business sponsors can support your organization with charitable donations or in-kind support. Apart from the philanthropic side of sponsoring a non-profit, companies and organizations sponsor charities to keep old customers, gain new ones, make a profit, and build their brand.
So it is crucial to remember that the relationship between nonprofits and sponsors should be mutual. While your charity receives funding to help create a successful event, sponsors expect marketing perks and exposure in return. This is how you can thank them – by going above and beyond with their exposure and benefits package.
Learn to attract more charity sponsors.
Conclusions on Thanking Supporters
Creating long-lasting relationships with donors is one of the most important aspects of a successful nonprofit fundraising strategy. And reaching out to your supporters to say thanks and expressing the impact of their gift keeps them engaged.