Every fundraising organisation should consider instituting a system for thanking each of their donors at least seven times for each gift. If you plan your “thank you’s” accordingly, you can – and should – communicate them as naturally as you communicate with your friends and family. In our business, there are few things more important than recognising our donors!
So, what are seven ways you can thank a donor? You should try to do all of them.
1. A personalised thank-you note from the person who asked for the gift. When was the last time you received a handwritten, stamped letter in the post? Give your donor an extra surprise in this increasingly online, digital world of ours!
2. A personalised thank-you message from the board chair/president on behalf of the organisation. A personalised message should definitely not be delivered to each and every donor; it should be reserved for certain donors and specific donation levels and the board members’ time should be used judiciously. Make sure your fundraising policies and procedures clearly denote at what donation levels senior people should be involved and communicate those policies to their supporting staff.
3. A personalised thank-you note from the organisation’s executive director or CEO. The same rules as Point 2 above apply here.
4. A personal telephone call from a senior organisation’s staff member within two days of receiving the gift. A call lets your donor know the organisation has received the donation, it appreciates the gift and it gives him or her a brief timeline for future communications.
5. A personal telephone call, within 30 days of receiving the gift, from a board member. While the same rules as Point 2 above applies, this is an extra thank-you that can and should be coming from someone your donor respects and who will welcome the call – plus it should help your donor feel he or she is becoming “part” of your team.
6. A thank-you acknowledgement in your organisation’s publications (including website, newsletter, etc). Actually, these are more ways for your organisation to say “thank you”. To add further value, you can then share the hardcopy or the Web link with the donor to indirectly say thank-you again.
7. Send a thank-you message through regular follow-up reports on the progress of the fundraising effort (each individual organisation may have different reporting requirements but updating donors every six months is a good rule of thumb). These progress reports not only acknowledge your donors, but are also a good way to keep donors informed of their “return-on-investment return” (i.e. what their donation has helped accomplish). With progress reports, donors will be well-prepared for a second or third ask in your fundraising efforts.
More ideas on how to say thank-you
2. A public “thank-you” display within your organisation’s offices and/or at one of your events, activities or facilities.
3. A thank-you message at the start of the next solicitation. One of the first sentences of any presentation, letter or phone call with your donor should include an acknowledgement of the donor’s previous support. For example, start your letter with, “Thank you so much for your gift of last year. That was a tremendous help to us.” And be sure to conclude the letter with, “For this year, can we count on you to increase your donation?”
As the above points hopefully illustrate, thanking donors seven times is not an insurmountable task. Common sense says that these thank-you messages should not go out on the same day. If you pace the timing of your thank-you messages, you can almost continually thank your donors and remind them of what and how their support is helping throughout the year. However, be careful not to overwhelm them either with too many thank you’s.
It is vital to have a formal system in place (including fundraising policies and procedures) to generate these various responses. All of your communications (whether letter, e-mail or telephone call) should be drafted and reviewed beforehand, with designated staff and/or volunteers approving the content. In this way the process can be automated, a necessary aspect for an organisation with potentially hundreds if not thousands of donors.
If you have flown in any commercial airliner, you will have heard the pilot telling their passengers, “We recognise that you have a choice when choosing airlines, and we thank you for choosing ours.” Your donors also have a choice. Recognising their donations as often as possible and in as many ways as possible ensures that they will continue to choose (by investing their time, interest and funds) your organisation when making their charitable decisions.