Once you have received the gift that you were seeking, you may think that your work is done. However, the most important part of you work has not even happened yet. Now, you need to say Thank YOU. Many donors tell me that they just can’t believe that they gave a gift to XYZ organization and didn’t receive any acknowledgement or thanks for the gift. Saying thank you is just a matter of good manners AND, as an added bonus, will help set your organization apart as one that did return to say thanks.
How well and if your organizations remembers to thank its donors can halt all of your efforts to cultivate donors…meaning you will have to start all over identifying, building a relationship and then making the ask. Since this process can take several months to a year, you can lose valuable time and dollars when you forget to say two little words.
According to some, you will want to say thank you for a gift seven times before asking for another one. Fortunately, thank you can be said in a variety of ways.
It may be helpful for the organization to establish recognition levels. In other words, if an individual gives under $1,000, then XYZ happens; for donors who give between $1,000 and $4,999, then ABC happens; and for gifts over $5,000, then DEF happens. There is no limit to the range of giving levels that can be established.
Saying thank you provides an opportunity for you to contact the donor to continue building the relationship that you have been building. This is a pleasant call that should be made by someone who knows the donor or a leader within the organization. Be careful about when the call is made, avoid dinner time, or other times when you know that the individual may be busy.
Another way to say thank you is to send a hand-written note. It is important that the note be personalized and reference something about the individual. You will also want to be certain that the individual writing the note has penmanship that is easy to read. If you know that the donor is elderly, you may also want to make sure that the writing is large enough to read.
Formal letters written on organizational letterhead can also be used to say thank you. This letter can include some piece of personalized information while also including some standardized information. If this letter is also to be used as the donor’s receipt, you will also want to include the organization’s tax-id number.
Above all, remember these tips for success when thanking your donors:
- Say thank you in a timely manner. Don’t wait weeks or even months to send a thank you. Ideally, the first thank you should occur within two days of receiving the donation.
- Use a first-class stamp to mail thank you letters. (Avoid using postage meters, or non-profit stamps).
- Use a personalized approach to say thank you. Take the opportunity to say thank you as a way to continue building the relationship that you have been working hard to develop.
In capital campaigns and other specific fundraising efforts, some organizations also find that donor recognition is important. Donor recognition can be a way of saying thank you; but you will want to be sure that the donor does not want to remain anonymous. Buildings, rooms, parks, programs, etc. can all be named after a donor.
Think about meaningful ways to recognize your donors. Some organizations will recognize donors in a newsletter, annual report or on a wall display. Donor recognition provides you with an opportunity to formalize and publicly say thank you for your gift.
Saying thank you seems like a really simple thing. But, we know from donors and others that people are doing a really bad job of it. Set yourself apart by developing a process to say thank you in a sincere and meaningful way to each of your donors.