Here’s What Smart Nonprofits Do When They Want A Repeat Gift

I was recently asked how you should thank a donor and how often. This phase of fundraising is known as stewardship. This is where nonprofits extend gratitude and acknowledgment to the donor.

How will you thank your donors so that they understand the impact they’ve made on your organization?

It is important that you offer thanks, so donors want to give again and again and again. 65% of first-time donors don’t make a second gift. That’s what Penelope Burk’s donor-centered research tells us. Donors want something quite simple: a prompt, meaningful thank you note and communication on how their money was used. That’s it! 85% of donors say that would convince them to make the second gift.

How you handle donor acknowledgments is that important.

Sadly, most nonprofits do a horrible job of showing donors how much they are appreciated.

I have given this past month to 4 different organizations and I have not received one thank you note.

Here are some important lessons I have learned early on in my fundraising career as a small nonprofit organization without a resource development team.

For every zero a donor gives that is the number of touches a donor receives within a year.

For example, if a person gives $99 or less that is one touch. Donors who give $100 — $999 receives two touches. Donors who give $1,000 — $9,999 gets three touches. Donors who give $10,000 — $99,999 receives four touches, and so on.

A good example of a good touch especially for a first-time donor, is a welcome packet. Get yours here and make sure your first-time donors know you truly appreciate their gift.

The one-touch that all donors, including those who give online, should get is a handwritten thank you note.

In this time of technology, the one thing that will make your nonprofit stand out is a handwritten note received by the donor within 48 hours of the gift. Not a canned receipt. Speed is important because the longer you wait, the more likely your donor will forget they donated, and the less sincere your thank you will seem. That, in turn, creates a negative donor experience that could prohibit someone from giving in the future.

Thank you notes should be simple and emotional with pure gratitude and make the donor feel like a hero. You are thanking them for their awesomeness. Don’t brag about your accomplishments or your future aspirations. Instead, tell them about what their gift has allowed. Your goal is to make your donors feel something. Make them care. The biggest thank-you note killer is being boring.

Remove “On behalf of” or “Thank you for” from your letter writing repartee. Start your letters in a more creative and personal way like “You made my day” on one line by itself. Then jump into a story: “Your donation crossed my desk today and …” Explain how the money will be used. If you don’t have specifics at that time you can simply assure donors that their gifts are going to “where the need is greatest.”

Also, a big buzz kill is careless errors. Nothing communicates a lack of care and respect like a blatant error on a thank you note. One of my most loyal advisors once told me if you spell my name wrong you have lost me forever. It’s ok to ask your donors on occasion if you’ve got their contact information correct (give them an email address to reach out), and if they send you corrections, update their profile everywhere.

If you’re a small nonprofit trying to grow your donor base, this is what you need to do. Sure, as you grow you can’t do it for everyone, but right now, you can. As you grow bigger you can send handwritten notes to your most committed donors.

Tip: Change who’s saying thank you. Ask a few clients to explain in their own words how your organization has changed their lives and to thank the donor for making it all possible. They write the note, but you send it. Then, ask board members to send a separate handwritten thank you note. Thank you note writing is a great activity for board member fundraising too — it’s low pressure, with a big return on the time invested.

So, how do you write a thank you note that takes less than 3 minutes?

First, make sure your note includes an engaging picture of your mission in action. So, if you run a scholarship program include a picture of a recipient receiving the scholarship. The picture does not have to be separate it can be printed on the thank you note card.

Second, write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name — not Dear Friend.

Yes, it is ok and efficient that you include a copy of the receipt for tax purposes. You don’t have to send it separately.

Here’s a sample thank you letter your nonprofit can send to donors.

Dear Sabrina,

Your donation crossed my desk today and I wanted to reach out and say thank you. Because of you, we will be able to provide more academic support to the youth we serve. Your gift of $75 will help us provide school supplies to those kids who need it the most.

We’re so happy to have you as a friend to (our organization).

One of your nonprofit’s most valuable resources is your donors. Donor stewardship is essential to the success of your organization’s fundraising. Showing gratitude is an excellent way to guarantee that your organization maintains a relationship with them over the course of time and receives additional gifts.

I hope this helps. If you need other creative ways to thank donors and make sure you get repeat gifts, download my free ebook here

Got any other tips or advice for nonprofits looking to develop an effective donor stewardship strategy? Please share them in the comments below. Sharing is Caring.

If you need sample board, resource development, or marketing documents you can subscribe to my blog or sign up for the weekly newsletter to get the password to the FREE VIP Resource Library by clicking here.

If you need a more personal touch on how to reach your donors and take your nonprofit to the next level, let’s talk! Book a strategy call with me, and we’ll talk through any issues you have!

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Author’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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