To build authentic rapport with folks you must show them you care. And the simplest way to demonstrate affection is through a heartfelt ‘Thank You.’ It can be in person, in writing, over the phone, through a text, via video or any which way you choose. The key is to make it personal and prompt.
Here’s a personal example. Recently my son found he’d have an unexpected layover in San Francisco. I jumped at the opportunity to join him for dinner, though it meant cancelling plans with my friends. The next morning, as he was getting on the plane, he texted them: “Thanks for changing your plans so I could see my Mom. I appreciate it.” You may be thinking ‘no big deal.’ But it is a big deal. He showed my friends he saw their flexibility as a gift. And someone (who?) taught him to always send a thank you for a gift. My friends were touched. Mama was proud.
Look for the hidden gifts and thank folks for them. (Click to Tweet) My friends gave me and my son a hidden gift. I’m guessing your donors do this too. They remember to send in a matching gift form. They agree to make a few phone calls. They send you their alma mater’s newsletter as a sample. All these things are worthy of acknowledgment. Send great thank you letters for cash donations too, of course. But endeavor to touch your supporters whenever and wherever you can. Whatever you can do to make a personal connection, do it.
By all means use the amazing array of technology we all have at our fingertips. And get creative. But don’t lose sight of a basic truth: the fact that you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Eschew automated responses, generic emails and conversing more or less exclusively digitally in lieu of voice-to-voice and face-to-face. Your challenge is to use all the tools at your disposal — new and old — to build genuine rapport; rather than to build a wall between you and your supporters.
Here are 7 ways to meaningfully connect:
- Personal notes. You can write it, email it, text it, direct tweet it or send it via carrier pigeon. The key is to make it a habit. And try to use the channel your supporter will most appreciate. I used to keep a stack of five note cards on my desk. At the end of the week, if they weren’t all gone, I’d failed at my job.
- Spontaneous phone calls. This is the same principle as the notes. Set aside 15 minutes on your calendar every day just to make thank you calls. Rack your brain (if you must) to come up with someone who did something for you. It may be another person on your staff. It may be a vendor. It may be a donor’s administrative assistant. And, of course, don’t forget your donors! Use these calls to get to know folks, and to let them get to know you. According to Penelope Burk’s research, outlined in Donor Centered Fundraising, donors receiving thank you calls subsequently gave 39% more. So, even though you can’t call them all, selecting just a few to call each week can have a huge impact. And this is also a great thing to train a group of volunteers to do.
- Greeting cards. Make the calendar and your database your friends. If it’s your donor’s birthday, send a greeting (This means making a record in your database or calendar and having a ‘tickler’ system to remind you). Don’t just sign your name to a Hallmark card (Blegh). Consider creating unique cards that showcase your mission (cute pets; smiling kids; awesome art; people hugging); then include a personal note and perhaps a token gift (see below). Choose a random holiday and send a card or e-greeting. Tie it back to your mission, and to their help (e.g., “Happy April Fool’s Day! Thanks for assuring we didn’t look like fools at the foundation presentation” or “Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for all the love you’ve given us, and for nurturing this project to fruition.”).
- Token gifts. I like to bake, so often bring folks home-made cookies. I know someone else who likes to can, so brings little jars of jam. Perhaps you have tons of fruit or vegetables in your yard? Bring a basket of lemons or tomatoes. Once I brought a fashion magazine to someone I knew would enjoy it as a guilty pleasure. The goal is not to spend a lot of money, but to show someone they’re in your thoughts. If you work for an organization that operates a café, or has performances or offers tours you can include a coupon with your notes and greeting cards. If you want gifts, it’s nice to also give them.
- Snapshots. This is a variation on the token gift. Take a snapshot of your donor at an event; then send it to them with a note: “Looks like you had a great time! We’re so glad you could join us.” You can also take snapshots that show the outcomes of your work. Just make sure they don’t look slick and postcard-like. The trick is to keep it authentic.
- Videos. It’s so inexpensive now to create shareable video; anyone with a smart phone can make one. So why not get a bit creative and share some thank you footage with your supporters? Take as many opportunities to share as you can find. After a gift is made online, include a link to a thank you video on your website . Showcase staff, volunteers, clients or donors. You’ll find a nice collection of social media ‘Thank You’s on UK Fundraising; I’m particularly enamored by Sprout Social who baked a cake for their own staff member when a customer suggested they do so; then they shared this! For advice on how to make great thank you videos click here. Or take a look at some sample videos I’ve included at the end of this article.
- Public recognition. This can be as simple as saying something positive about your supporter in front of someone they admire (e.g., your E.D., a board member, a peer or a family member). Or consider writing a story about them to share in your newsletter. Other forms of public recognition include honoring folks at events, including their names on a donor honor roll or endorsing or following them on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Next time you’re together with an awesome donor and a group of folks take the opportunity of letting everyone in the group know how awesome your donor is (e.g., “George is the one who really made this program come to fruition.”).
Finally, reach for the unexpected. For example, in my personal life whenever I see a “perfect gift” for someone I buy it regardless of the fact that there’s no birthday in sight. I’ve found these “just because” gifts are more appreciated than the “must give” presents I end up buying from a catalogue at the last minute just to have “something” at the appointed time. Get creative in finding ways to delight folks. Make your own “I appreciate you” times! You’ll get a bigger bang for your buck than just sending a one-time receipt for a gift transaction.
Thank you video examples:
You can find a bunch on my Pinterest Board: Nonprofits Say Thanks. Here are some of note:
- The Archie Bray Foundation
- Minnesota Public Radio (followed by three other ‘favorite nonprofit thank you videos’ from Network for Good)
- Nature Conservancy
- Goodwill of Delaware County Video made to thank employees.
Philanthropy means “love of humankind.” Show your philanthropists and philanthropy facilitators some love. Say thanks early and often. Make your Mama proud!
How do you say thank you?
For a passel of creative ways to say thanks and keep your donors you may wish to check out How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude with 106 full pages jam-packed with the theory and practice of gratitude, one of the most effective yet least effectively utilized donor retention strategies. Plus it includes 62 Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors. To your success!
Other articles that may be of interest:
Photos: Flicker Matthew Matheson, Leo Reynolds