The Power of Saying "Thank You"
“Thank you notes before playing with your gifts,” my mom would tell me. I would spend the first few hours of Christmas morning handwriting notes to my grandparents and Santa Claus for their generosity. It was torture for a 10 year old. When I became a fundraising professional 15 years later I credit my mother with giving me the most valuable skill any professional can have – being able to say thank you in a timely, personal and meaningful way.
According to Penelope Burk’s Donor-Centered Fundraising, only 40% of donors say they always receive a thank you letter after they make a donation… which means that the other 60% either receive a thank you sometimes, or shockingly, not at all.
So what does this statistic mean for nonprofits? A typical nonprofit will lose 50% of its annual donors between the first and second donation and up to 30% year on year thereafter. Yikes! The lesson here: Not saying thank you to your donors, members, stakeholders, board members and even your staff is hurting you financially!
With your year-end annual appeals wrapping up, here are a few tips to ensure you give everyone on your list a personal and meaningful thank you this annual appeal season.
Pull together all the past notes, letters, phone scripts or any other materials created for the purpose of saying thank you. Make sure they are all consistent in messaging, information is up to date (especially statistics about your organization) and there are no spelling errors before sending out.
It should be a priority to say thank you within 48 hours after receipt. If you send out all your thank you letters at the end of the month, shoot an email or call after hours to leave a message of gratitude right away. I like to set aside the last 30 minutes of my work day to send thank you notes or make thank you calls.
Make It Personal and Meaningful
The goal is to tell your donors “You matter to us and your gift makes a difference.” You’re not going to make me feel that way if your letter starts off with “Dear Friend…” Don’t do that, ever! Know my name. Know how much I gave. Tell me what kind of impact my contribution made in your organization.
For the younger generations who love email and social media it’s easy to hide behind your computer. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a phone call or handwritten note card. They have become a lost art like sewing or cooking for us busy professionals but people appreciate them, remember them, and feel like you went above and beyond.
Didn’t Get Any Money? Send A Thank You Anyway
It’s called cultivation and don’t be short sighted. They didn’t give this year but there is always next year. Didn’t get the big grant you applied for? Better send a thank you note — trust me, the nomination committees will be more likely to remember you next year.
There are lots of times I forgot to say thank you, especially to my co-workers and my husband (my top donors of time, idea sharing and support). I just have to remember to make it a habit and priority throughout the day. So thanks Mom, for making me write those thank you cards when all I really wanted to do was play with my new toys. I appreciate it now.