When a donor gives, your gut reaction might be to say, “Yes, we did it!” But as a seasoned fundraiser, you know that the work is not quite done. As Alan Clayton has said better than anyone else I’ve heard, “Giving provides the donor a warm glow, thanking them and reminding them of that gift extends the glow and makes it more memorable.”
If it’s true that people like to give, then it makes sense that thanking them makes that good experience even better.
How often do you thank a donor?
You don’t have to thank your donors only once — by automating your donor communications, you can make sure that a loyal donor’s giving history is acknowledged in future communications. This helps to remind them along the way of the cumulative impact they are making in the world — and it reminds them how much more they can do.
Major Gift experts talk about thanking donors three times in three different ways. For Middle Donors, it should scale depending on the size of a gift:
A small regular gift might generate a personal email thanks
A larger year-end gift receives a call and a handwritten note
Their largest gift-to-date receives the full treatment that a Major Donor would receive
Why do you thank a donor?
Thanking a donor isn’t just a way to show your appreciation for their gift. Thanking is also about:
Affirmation — that the donor’s gift was the right thing to do
Confirmation — that the impact will be meaningful
Retention — that the donor will continue to give
Multiple studies back up the claim that thank-you calls are imperative for donor retention. Penelope Burk , in her Second Edition of Donor-Centered Fundraising , noted donors’ responses to the following hypothetical question:
What if you made a modest, first-time gift to a not-for-profit; then, within a matter of days, a member of the Board of Directors of the organization you supported called just to say thank you. What would you think if that happened and, then, what would you do the next time you were asked to give?
The results were quite telling:
95% of donors said they would very much appreciate receiving such a call;
93% said they would definitely or probably give again the next time they were asked;
84% of those who would give in the next request would definitely or probably make a larger gift than before; and
74% would continue to give indefinitely, with many respondents adding that they would not need to receive a thank you call from a Board member every time they gave.
Do you need a “thank you” plan?
Yes, you do. Rather than leaving the thank-you plan up to the discretion of a number of reps, it’s strongly recommended that a consistent Stewardship Grid be established that outlines the types of thank-yous and donor reporting that happen at various giving levels. This will ensure consistency across your file.
Is a thank you enough?
While thanking a donor goes a long way, it’s just as important to show your donors what their gifts are doing, through specific and customized impact reporting. Donors like to know that they are contributing towards a large goal, but they may also want to know what specific village their money went to, or what piece of medical equipment they helped to buy. This helps the impact they made feel real.
Maybe it is time for your organization to do a “thank you” audit. Are your thank-yous intentional, impactful, and timely? Show your donors that their giving is making a difference — and extend “the glow” that giving produces.
Don’t know where to start, or simply want to speed things up? We got this!