FYI Blog

Best Practices: Thank you!

It’s the time of year when Americans count their blessings and gather together to give thanks. And in the world of nonprofit fundraising, it’s a good time to focus on how incredibly powerful that small gesture of saying “thank you” is.

Perhaps the ultimate cultivation device, a simple “thank you” conveys appreciation for the donor’s thoughtfulness and financial contribution, while also encouraging loyalty, further donations, and ongoing involvement with your organization.

Besides being the right thing to do, systematically thanking donors also improves donor retention and future giving. Just remember that direct mail is not your only option. One study suggests that a thank-you call to a new donor can significantly increase that donor’s subsequent giving. This suggests that professional telemarketing would be a wise investment–or that having volunteers call donors would be a productive use of their time.

You can train telemarketers who are calling on a specific appeal to pivot from a refusal to a sincere thank you by mentioning the donor’s previous contributions. Callers can turn the point of refusal into a positive conversation just by thanking the donor and recognizing his or her past support. Positive contact is what’s important.

Similarly, you can make online non-donation auto-responders more meaningful. Whether thanking the supporter for joining your email list, submitting an idea/opinion, or taking another action, a heartfelt thank you in these cases is yet another opportunity to provide a positive touch point with your organization.

Some reminders on how to best thank your donors:

1. Ideally, you should mail an acknowledgment or call the donor within a week of receiving the gift (this can be more frequent for larger programs. Online gifts should receive an automated thank you, a follow up via another channel as needed.

2. Consider the tone of your acknowledgement–does it convey a personal touch or does it feel mass-produced? There are cost-effective and more personal formats that may increase your retention and offset potential added costs.

3. Don’t be afraid to say “thank you” on the carrier or in the email subject line, to avoid having the strong gift acknowledgment message get lost in the shuffle.

4. If possible, include personalization in the acknowledgment. This can take the form of a personalized salutation for lower-dollar gifts, and a handwritten note or handwritten signature for a higher-level gift.

5. Be sure to thank your members more generally outside of your acknowledgment program–in newsletters, appeals, etc. to make sure your supporters know how much your organization values their gifts.

6. Consider sending occasional “thank-you” cultivation emails as short and sweet reminders that you appreciate your donors’ commitment to your organization.

Thanking donors should be a strategic focus, not an afterthought. Quickly recognizing your donors’ proven commitment to your organization is one of the easiest ways to show your appreciation and respect–which will, in turn, encourage them to keep giving.