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Allison Gauss

There’s More to a Donation Receipt than Meets the Eye

If you have a donor’s attention, you’d better make the most of it. In a world where people sort through hundreds of emails from businesses, friends, family, and coworkers, you can’t afford to bore them. Unfortunately, not every message that needs to be sent is the kind that automatically grabs a reader’s attention.

• Donation Receipts
• Registration Confirmations
• Thank You Emails

While the intentions behind these messages are good, you may be missing out on opportunities to strengthen your relationship with supporters. Of course donors want to get a receipt after their gift, but you don’t want to just meet their expectations – you want to exceed them!

In this blog, we’ll talk about the importance of continuous engagement with your audience and how to work actionable or inspiring content into your everyday, seemingly mundane, donor communications.

Adding Value, Adding Delight

There are a lot of communications with donors that aren’t necessarily the right place to make an ask. For example, you don’t ask for another donation as you thank a donor for their first. But, if possible, you want every encounter with a supporter to strengthen that relationship. So how do you use a not-so-exciting email get them excited and engaged with your cause?

You give them a little something extra.

Every time you speak to a donor is a chance to remind them why they care, to show how they can help, or even to make their day.

If you’ve ever shopped at, you’ve probably noticed their “customers also bought” section.

The obvious reason for these suggestions is for Amazon to sell more products, but they also serve another purpose. Along with upselling, this feature helps the customer find other products they may need or want. So if I am buying new inner tubes for my bicycle and Amazon suggests an air pump, all I have to do is click on that picture. It saves me the time to create a new search and sort through the results. These personalized suggestions can increase trust and satisfaction between the customer and the retailer.

We can use a similar idea to encourage continued engagement with your organization. When someone touches your organization (through an email, newsletter, receipt etc.), it’s like they are finding the first product they need. Now you can take it further by saying, “Hey, I think you’d be interested in this.”

So now the question is: what content do I suggest? What kind of additions will people want to engage with and click on?

Well, remember that the point is to take a less-than-exciting interaction and make it something that gets the viewer more interested, more involved. Try to offer something that will touch the recipient, something to make them laugh or cry, something that makes them curious or outraged. You’re taking a predictable email and making it into something more.

Some content you can include and link to:

Impact Stories
Blog Posts
Great pictures

But it’s not just about what content you add, it’s also about how you present it.

“We Have Something for You!”

Present your content and engagement opportunities as a gift. You’re not begging donors to watch this video, you’re saying “here is a look at the awesome work you are supporting.” You’re not asking for their time, you’re giving them the content. As long as you treat your content and engagement like a chore, no one will get excited about it.

So perhaps you send a thank you email after a donation is made. This is a necessary but not very engaging exchange: the perfect opportunity to add some content to keep the donor’s interest. Fortunately, you just posted an amazing album of pictures from the field to your organization’s Facebook page. Why not direct the donor there to show them your programming in action?

So, after saying “thank you,” you put the following in your message:

Please like our Facebook page and check out the brand new photos we posted.

Even if you provide a link directly to your Facebook page or even a “like” button to the email, this still sounds like an ask. The tone is polite and benign. Boring. Why not try…

Check out these amazing new photos from the field! You’re helping change lives!

You can include a link that takes them directly to the album in Facebook. You should still include social follow buttons in the email, but make sure you are presenting the photos as a gift, not a transaction. They will have plenty of opportunity to “like” the page and the individual photos, but first you have to get them to click through to the pictures.

Tell Them What You Have to Offer

You also need to be specific when presenting your content. Saying “Read our latest blog post here” isn’t going to generate much interest, that’s why you need to start a story or pose an interesting question.

Instead of:

Check out our latest blog post

Try this:

Meet the students attending the school we built in Malawi!

Both of these phrases would link to the same blog post, but the second introduces a people and place – the beginnings of a story. You can do this with all kinds of content. If you’re going to give them something special, it should be presented as such.

After spicing up your donation receipts and registration confirmations with some engaging content, use your CMS to track what content is getting clicks. This will not only help you know which pieces are currently getting attention, it can help guide you in deciding what blog posts and videos to create in the future.

Great content is a powerful tool for retaining and motivating supporters, so take advantage of these stories and images in your emails.

Success by Example: 10 Digestible Case Studies

examples of successful nonprofit fundraising campaigns

Image Credit: Anita Ritenour

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