Elizabeth Chung
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Build Donor Loyalty With an Awesome Thank You

Thanking donors is a part of every fundraiser’s job. It’s a crucial part of strengthening donor relationships and goes a long way toward keeping retention rates high—something nonprofits still struggle with. Fifty three percent of donors who leave an organization do so because of reasons tied to poor communication. What’s even more shocking is that one of the top reasons donors stop giving to a nonprofit is because they never got thanked.

To help keep retention rates up, you need to be intentional about how you show donors sincere gratitude. A thoughtfully crafted thank you could be the difference between losing a donor and keeping them around.

Here are a few best practices that will upgrade your thank you messages and help you build donor loyalty.

1. Add A Personal Touch

While donors should receive an auto-receipt following their gift, this is your opportunity to communicate a heartfelt thanks to your supporters for their contributions. Expressing sincere appreciation is key to strengthening donor relationships, so convey authenticity by adding a personal touch to your outreach.

Handwritten letters, especially, can go a long way toward establishing a meaningful connection with donors. In fact, in a recent survey, nonprofit technology firm Software Advice found that most donors preferred personalized letters to other follow-up methods.

Improve donor satisfaction by prioritizing handwritten thank-you messages whenever possible. To keep your follow-up timely, make sure donors receive your letter within two weeks of making their gift.

For larger organizations, it might not be realistic to follow up every donation with a personal note. In this case, you can still use email segmentation to thank supporters in a more individualized fashion.

2. Customize Messages for Different Groups of Donors

To demonstrate your value for supporters and their gifts, it’s important to tailor your thank-you messages according to the context of their individual contributions. This requires you to segment your donors and create follow-up plans for each group.

To start, try segmenting your contacts by the following criteria:

Programs they donated to – Show supporters you pay attention to their gifts and interests by sending thank-you messages that touch on the specific programs they donated to. This level of personalization can impress donors and show them you care.

Not all gifts are made toward a particular program, though, which can leave you at a loss for context when creating your follow-up message (especially to new donors with no other giving history). Thankfully, there are still ways you can learn more about your donors’ interests. With Classy, for instance, you can add a custom question to your donation form that asks donors to choose which programs they’re most passionate about. You can then adjust your follow-up message to reference these interests.

Gift amount – Your organization may not be able to send personal notes to every donor, but it’s still a good idea to build special follow-up strategies for those who give larger gifts.

Try setting different threshold amounts for certain types of outreach. Based on their gift amount, you can segment donors into tiers and follow up accordingly:
– Large gifts ($400+): donors would receive a handwritten letter
– Mid-size gifts ($200-$399): donors would receive a personalized email and shout-out on social media
– Lower-size gifts ($1-$199): donors would receive a personalized email

3. Give A Glimpse Into The Donor’s Impact

Impact stories serve as proof of your organization’s effectiveness, and they should always be featured in your follow up. Unsurprisingly, according to the Software Advice study, what donors want most in their follow-up communications are impact and success stories.

Even when you thank supporters right after they’ve made a gift, your thank you can still demonstrate impact. Explain where their money will go and how it will make a difference. Affirm your supporter’s decision to give by describing how gifts like these have enabled your organization to make a lasting change in your field. When thanking donors, consider highlighting a short story about a beneficiary, or a telling statistic about your cause to assure donors that their contributions will be used effectively.

4. Reengage Donors Beyond Your Email

Your thank you should never close out the conversation between you and a donor. While you should hold off on asking for another gift, make sure to provide other opportunities for them to engage with your organization. Whether you include a call to action that asks readers to check out a blog, share an impact report, or watch a video, always include the next step you want them to take after reading your email.

Tip: With new donor retention rates hovering at a mere 27 percent, first time givers require a special engagement plan that keeps them involved with your organization. Strengthen these budding relationships by creating a special 2 or 3 part email series to welcome new donors. These customized emails should thank recipients for their gift, share their impact, and offer additional resources to educate them about your organization and its programs. The final email should ask them to opt into your newsletter, adding them to your regular communication workflows.

Fundraisers know thanking donors is crucial, but there’s more to an effective follow up than just two words. To nurture a lasting relationship with your supporters, it’s incredibly important that you express sincere appreciation. Adding personalized touches, emphasizing the importance of their gift, and keeping up the conversation are crucial to building donor loyalty. Give your follow up some extra thought, and you’ll be well on your way to turning one-time donors into life-long supporters.

Read Next: 15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors

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Image Source: Amy Gizienski

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