Finding new donors can be time consuming and expensive for an organization. It’s much easier to do simple things to keep existing donors happy. The easiest and best thing you can do is show appreciation for your donors. An important aspect of this appreciation is saying thank you. While that seems obvious enough, you would be surprised by how many organizations are getting the thank you process wrong!
Now let me be very clear, I am not talking about a receipt, or an official donation acknowledgement letter as required by the IRS. Those should both go out quickly and use the words “thank you,” but thank you notes they are not. Instead, I’m talking about specific outreach in the form of a thank you email, letter, or other form of acknowledgment.
Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure your thank yous are successful, adequate, and appreciated by your donors:
Thank yous must be authentic.
This means that your thank you must be timely, tailored to the individual, and focused on the impact of their action or pattern of actions. I don’t expect an individual thank you email for every monthly $5 contribution — likewise if I volunteered somewhere weekly — but a thank you for a quarter or year’s worth of those actions is always appropriate. Have you ever read an email from a CEO that you know doesn’t care at all about the subject they are writing about? If you can tell they don’t care, that’s not authentic.
Utilize specific actions, donations, or dates when possible.
While end-of-the-year emails that thank everyone for their support are good, they’re not sufficient on their own for thanking donors or showing appreciation. Use the donor’s name when possible and highlight specific actions and donations or dates. It’s fine to say thank you for “your donation to the XYZ campaign” if the donation was specific to that campaign.
Learn each donor’s “appreciation language”
As you get to know your repeat donors and volunteers on a more personal basis, you can find out how they prefer to receive appreciation. Just like love languages, there are appreciation languages — some people prefer their words of affirmation privately, while others like the recognition announced publicly from stage at a gala or event. When possible, knowing a donor’s personal preference can set your thank you apart, and ensure they feel appreciated.
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