Of all the things in your donor retention toolbox, gratitude is the most important. Your benefactors value your charitable mission as much as you do. Without them, it would be impossible to realize your goal. No organization would dream of skipping the thank-you letter but it takes more a standardized note to establish proper gratitude.
Donors are unique
Thank-you letters can be difficult to compose, especially for those who aren’t natural writers. Sending cards to a wide audience can induce anxiety in knowing the right thing to say. While templates take a lot of the guesswork out of correspondence, they also deflate the purpose behind giving gratitude, said the Network for Good. Form letters address individual donors as part of a generic sea, and won’t carry the resonance necessary to continue lasting connections with your supporters. Letters don’t need to be perfect, but they do need to be personalized.
Writing letters by hand is the best way to deliver this kind of communication. Ask a variety of staff, including volunteers and board members, to sign each note. This doesn’t mean more than one person needs to be assigned the task of composing letters. When donors receive several appreciation letters over the years, they’ll have a chance to see just how many people they’re connecting with. On a practical note, remember to save each note’s text with your document management software. This will help you give unique thanks each time an individual contributes to your organization.
If personalization is critical, punctuality is the priority above priorities. All thank-yous should be sent within 48 hours of a gift, according to Gail Perry. This is both a matter of practicality and kindness. Donors want to know as soon as their contribution is processed, and they also want to feel good for their efforts. Start with a follow-up email or phone call, which will reach benefactors much faster than paper mail. Even a voicemail is enough to offer immediate appreciation. After giving initial thanks, take some time to write a card by hand. Your gratitude isn’t any more a one-time deal than the continual efforts in making the world a better place.
Exercise good manners
If your regular constituents feel undervalued or forgotten, there’s no guarantee of continuing the connection. Don’t take your monthly donors for granted. They deserve to be thanked for each month’s gift, regardless of the consistent schedule. It’s not just a matter of respect, it’s also crucial to recognize that sustainers are usually your largest-capacity donors. They may be contributing modest amounts each round, but those checks add up to a much larger sum over the long term. From the moment a donor signs up for a monthly giving program, set the stage for the future relationship with an immediate thank-you note.
Be specific in your communication, naming the amount of the gift and the exact date it was processed. Your donation management software can help you keep track of such details. For those who have given more than once, make sure to acknowledge prior donations in each thank-you letter, said The Nonprofit Times. But don’t ask for a subsequent gift. Both new and seasoned benefactors will appreciate the chance to make contribution decisions on their own timeline, without pressure.
The heart of it
Donors are collaborators in building a compassionate reality, and this is what you have to be most thankful for. Build the depth by detailing the tangible ways in which they’re making a difference. Don’t overthink your writing. Sincerity is far more important than formality, so be your earnest self. Include a concise story that elicits emotion – this can be a simple example of what the gift enabled you to do. Focus your thank you on the mission made possible.
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