Showing Thanks to Build Loyalty and Trust

Another day at the office: get settled in, enjoy your morning coffee, check your email, and go about your daily business. Soon enough, though, the mail comes and–if you’re like us anyhow–you’re excited to see what has come. Unlike the mail at your house, which usually contains bills and junk, the mail at your non-profit hopefully contains contributions for your organization. Aside from the heart pounding moments where you open a letter from a foundation, many gifts come from individuals sending in amounts both large and small.

What should the next steps be for that contribution? Well, aside from logging it in your donor management and accounting programs, you should be thinking about how to thank the donor. At the non-profit I worked for, we tried to go out of our way to say thank you in just about every piece of correspondence we sent, even if it wasn’t regarding a specific donation. There’s a very simple reason: showing your gratitude builds loyalty and trust. This is something that both non-profits and for-profit companies should be making a part of their daily routines.

While a donor is not required by law to have an acknowledgement letter to claim donations less than $250 on their taxes, most donors expect such letters for any gift they give to a non-profit. It’s been said that a donor is much more likely to donate again if they’re thanked at least three times in three different ways once they’ve made their donation, and that was our goal in our day to day operations. In fact, the main reason that donors lapse and stop giving is due to lack of communication from the organization.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that we would send an email, letter, and give them a phone call all in the same day. However, before a year passes, you should have had ample time and opportunity to make those three different points of contact. From our experience, this advice rings true.

One year, while preparing our year-end mailing, we put aside any letter addressed to a donor who had given $50 or more in the last two years. It wasn’t exactly a small stack! Still, we put forth a special effort to have the Executive Director hand write an extra note of thanks onto each of these letters. The extra work paid off! Not only did the rate of returns go up, but a number of the regular donors who typically gave the same amount per year increased their gift by 50 to 100%!

Was it a fluke? We don’t think so. One donor sent her donation in with her own thank you note included, saying that not only was she thankful for what our organization did, but that we were the only organization she had ever donated to that sent a hand-written thank you note with the year end appeal.

So, how do you actually go about thanking your donors? As we mentioned above, sending a thank you letter is the most typical way of acknowledging a donation. Other methods abound: sending an email, giving them a call, or thanking them in person. Of course, you certainly can’t memorize full details about every donor and every donation. Still, you should be aware enough so that you can offer a simple “Thanks for your support!” when you come across a donor out and about.

Whatever platform you use for donor management, be sure to use its features to your advantage. With Donor Wrangler, for instance, you can generate your thank you letters for print or email, log your interactions with the donor in person or on the phone, and assign tasks to yourself or others to ensure that someone follows up to thank the donor on behalf of the organization. Many other donor management platforms have similar features, and you should be using them to your advantage!

When used in tandem, these features can be powerful tools in making sure that you are showing the gratitude necessary to build a strong relationship with, and retain, your donors. With that, we’ll express our sincere thanks for stopping by and reading our blog! We hope to see you again soon.

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