A good thank you does more than set up your next ask.  It’s the key to retaining and upgrading your donors.  Penelope Burk found in her research that donors define oversolicitation not by an excessive number of appeals but by being asked to give again before they knew their first gift had an impact.

The sad state of our sector is that most donors aren’t properly thanked.  You could be reading this blog post right now thinking, “Oh, I thank donors.  I’ve got an email autoresponder set up.” Or “I’m fine, we send them a tax receipt letter on our letterhead.”  But if you gave to your own organization would either of those pieces of communication inspire you to make another gift? 

Let’s face it, we like in a world of instant gratification.  On top of that humans want feedback.  Who doesn’t pay attention to gossip, report cards, or performance reviews?  Donors overwhelmingly desire more information about how their specific gifts are being used in order for them to feel motivated to keep giving.  Jeff Brooks says “Donors need rich, emotional proof that their money accomplished something.”  Is the homeless man off the street?  Did the child get the vaccine? 

Here are a few tips for crafting a killer thank you’s that never go out of style from Penelope’s first book, Donor Centered Fundraising.  

1.       Don’t be predictable.

Everyone is expecting you to lead with the perfunctory “Thank you on behalf of the board, the staff and the clients we serve…”   Yawn, yawn, yawn.  Stand out!  Make them feel they are there in the room with you.  “The screams and squeals from the 9th grade class at the Ann Richard’s School for Young Women Leaders when they found out thanks to YOUR generous gift they’d be going to the nation’s capital were positively deafening.”

2.      Do not ask them to do anything, like take a survey or make another gift. 

This is a time for expressing gratitude and sharing the meaning of their gift, not for giving them homework or potentially offending them with another ask.

3.      Do not recycle the same copy indefinitely.  Make it meaningful!   

How often do you change out you thank you copy?  I recommend changing it monthly.  Be transparent and provide insight as to how the gift will be used. Show the gift in action.

4.      Make it personal

I spent 12 years running a nonprofit organization and we gained scale and efficiency with our thank you cards by using branded cardstock and preprinting a variety of close up photos of the programs in action in each.  We even engaged students and volunteers in the fun and had them write the cards.  If possible include a personal touch, such as a photo of someone the organization has helped through the mission.

5.      Make it speedy.

Ideally you are getting this out within 24-48 hours.  Don’t exceed 5 days, but late is better than never.  When you approach your big gala, end of your fiscal year or the holidays make sure you are prepared to allocate time and staff accordingly.  I recommend a weekly or daily stewardship “power hour”. 

The longer you keep your donors and cultivate them effectively, the more they will give over time!  Want more tips from the pro’s on the profit and process of retaining your donors?  Join me and my friends at Abila on Tuesday, August 9th for a free webinar, “Maximize the Post-Gift Glow”


Stay classy!