Christmas is the season of giving and receiving; the time to show gratitude to those who have generously selected and given a gift. Acknowledging the gift is an important part of the process - imagine spending all that time and effort on choosing the perfect gift for someone, only to not be thanked or acknowledged. You’d no doubt be less inclined to give that person a gift again.
This is exactly how donors feel when charities don’t recognise their contribution. Donors want to know how significant their donation is and, equally important, how it will be used. The Christmas season provides the perfect opportunity to acknowledge and thank loyal contributors for their support over the year - and there are some real advantages for charities that make a habit of this too.
Building a bond
Anyone operating in the not-for-profit space knows just how important donor retention is. Nurturing relationships with your donors by acknowledging their contribution in a meaningful way will go a long way towards increasing donor retention and - in doing so - minimise expenses and inefficiencies. Showing your appreciation for even the smallest of donations can ignite a lifetime of support – and repeat donors play a critical role in the long term success of not-for-profits.
Donors are 19% more likely to donate again and give around twice as much as people who hadn’t donated to that charity before, so it’s far more difficult (and costly) to gain new supporters than retain old ones. So when you mismanage and lose a donor, you’re also losing money – remember, it pays to ‘thank before you bank’.
Building your brand
Sending a thank you also gives you another organic opportunity to remind donors of your cause; something that’s increasingly important as the charity sector is becomes more crowded and donors are bombarded by new causes every day. Just as businesses build brand awareness through exposure and advertising, charities need to take the same approach, but often without the same budgets. A thank you letter, email or telephone call allows you get your cause in front of your “customers” in a natural and meaningful way, and even offers another avenue to highlight the good work you’re doing. Demonstrate the impact a donor has made not only contextualises their donation, it also reminds them of the work you’re doing – work that’s only possible thanks to their support.
How to say thanks
So, you understand the importance of thanking your donors, but how do you actually go about it?
- Weaving a narrative: While a “Thank You” letter is a great fundraising tool not-for-profits, adding a short anecdotal story and accompanying images that exemplify your raison d'etre can be an even more effective way to thank donors for their contributions. Letting your organisation’s personality and values shine through in the communication adds sincerity and shows your donors that you wholeheartedly and genuinely appreciate their support.
- To print or not to print? That is indeed the question – and it’s one that doesn’t have a clear answer, as each has its benefits. Thanking your donors via email allows you to add pictures, video and links for a clear call to action. Plus, if you use a mail service like Mail Chimp, you’re also able to track open rates, see how many people engage with your email, and use this information to improve future communications. On the other hand, sending a physical copy through the mail can cut through the noise and clutter of an inbox and have a more meaningful impact. Be mindful that going the physical route is not only much more expensive, some people might find it wasteful and not particularly environmental, so you’ll need to carefully weight up all factors before deciding which method’s best for your organisation.
- Pick up the phone: The value of a quality personal interaction should never be underestimated. While phoning donors might not be feasible for larger organisations, it can be a truly effective method for small to medium not-for-profits to build a connection with their constituents. In one study conducted, a direct mail appeal was sent to a group of donors. From the people who responded to the appeal by sending a donation, a test group of donors was selected and called within 24 hours after their donations was received. Three months later, another appeal was sent out to the original list. In response to that appeal, donors from the test group increased their donations significantly, while donors who had not received a call gave less.
Thanking your donors is an essential part of the donation process and is not something that should be neglected or considered an afterthought. If the intention is to express your gratitude and show appreciation for their value as a donor, then you need to do exactly that - particularly if your organisation is aiming to strengthen the social relationship and build emotional engagement.
Lastly, don’t forget to wish your donors a very merry Christmas!!