Fri, January 03 2014

5 rules for thanking donors

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Here at Network for Good we experienced a busy giving season right up to the final hours of 2013. This is good news for nonprofits, as we saw a 16% increase in dollars donated compared to the year-end fundraising season of 2012. After all of that activity, it can be tempting to take it easy for a few weeks now that January is here. Of course, the reality is that your work with donors is just beginning.

Now is your opportunity to begin turning year-end donors into your long-term partners in good. To do so, you need a solid plan to welcome these donors, keep them informed, and build relationships with them throughout the year. The first step is to keep the magic alive with a well-planned donor gratitude strategy. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Thank your donors as soon as possible.  Ideally, your online donors have already received an automatic thank you and receipt, and offline donors are receiving their thank yous in the mail shortly. Thanking donors promptly is not just common courtesy, it’s positive reinforcement of their decision to support and trust your organization.

A receipt is not a thank you.  Yes, you must make sure your donors get donation receipts that include information on tax deductibility. That said, if the most interesting line your response to a donor’s gift is “No goods or services were received by the donor as a result of this gift,” you’re doing it wrong. (See also: IRS rules on acknowledging contributions.)

One thank you is not enough.  You’ve acknowledged all of your year-end donations with a proper thank you. You’re done, right? Not so fast. One great thank you is a good start, but don’t forgo regularly thanking donors to keep them up to date on the impact of their gifts. Don’t leave donors wondering, “Whatever happened to that person/animal/cause in need?”

Don’t forget other donation sources.  Acknowledge every donation your organization receives, whether they come from your direct mail campaign, your online donation page, or from third-party sources such as employee giving programs, peer-to-peer fundraisers, or online giving portals. Understand all of your donation sources and tailor your notes of appreciation, where necessary. New donors coming in from a peer-to-peer campaign, for example, may need a more formal introduction to your organization than donors you’ve directly solicited.

Make sure your thank you is sincere and memorable. You may have a template for your donor thank yous, but if your thank you feels like a form letter, it needs more work. Express authentic gratitude for your donors’ generosity and put them in the middle of the work you do. Use photos, quotes, and even video to help bring these stories to life for your supporters. Give donors a thank you so amazing that they can’t wait to show it off to their friends and family.

Need some help with your thank you letters? Here are a few resources from our learning center:

How to Treat Your Donor Like Your Superhero
Key Qualities for Amazing Thank You Letters
3 Things Your Donor Thank You Should Do
6 Keys to Donor Retention

Are you sending an amazing thank you this year? Have you received one? Share your examples in the comments and we’ll feature the best ones in an upcoming post!

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