In 2018, WSJ columnist Christopher Mims observed:
“Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.”
”Everything” includes a prompt expression of gratitude when someone makes a philanthropic gift to your organization.
At least that’s what donors believe.
And you better deliver – or else.
Don’t Think Donors will Give You a Pass Because You’re Nonprofit
People have come to expect this kind of turnaround by land, air and sea. So, you better believe they expect it by internet!
Especially if they make their gift online.
And, yes, they expect it from you.
They know you have the ability to send them immediately to a donation thank you page.
They know you can send an automated thank you email out right away.
They might even be looking for an immediate thank you text. After all, the technology is there. And it’s inexpensive. They know this!
And, if the gift is significant, they may even be sitting by their phone waiting for a thank you call. After all, it’s not even high tech. They know this!
Why a Prompt Nonprofit Donor Thank You is More Important Than Ever
Do you have a plan for getting all these prompt, personal, powerful thank you’s out to your donors?
Or is your modus operandi simply to send a receipt or thank you letter via mail – in whatever timeframe you can manage? No huge rush?
If so, you’re falling behind.
At least in consumer hopes and perceptions.
Expectations are 21st Century
It’s not just “nice” to say thank you and stay in touch.
And, I’m sorry to be the messenger, but Amazon changed consumer expectations even more when they transitioned from two-day shipping to one-day shipping in 2019; then recently this year to same-day shipping in 140 metro areas. Plus they, and Walmart, now offer drone delivery to millions of customers. And this is for tangible goods!
Consumers everywhere expect prompt service from businesses – including those who plow their profits back into service to the community.
As Scott Galloway put it, When Amazon zigs, retailers must zag.
No one is immune.
Ready to get zaggity?
How to Deliver to Make Donors Happy
Like it or not, nonprofits are in the happiness delivery business.
This may not be the only thing you do, but it’s a big part of enabling you to fulfill on your vision, mission and values.
Just like with any retail business, if engaging with your nonprofit business doesn’t make people happy they’re simply not going to continue to engage.
Whatever your nonprofit brand is, it’s your promise to your current and would-be supporters.
You must deliver on that promise.
Donors, like everyone else engaging with you, have an expectation of a “feel good.” Even if that feeling is just “they did the right thing.” You don’t want them to suffer even the teensiest bit of “buyer’s remorse.”
ASAP, you want to reassure them:
- You received their gift.
- You will apply it as per their intention.
- You are grateful for their support.
You might think “they shouldn’t be so needy.” But that flies in the face of human nature. We all want to be appreciated. And, sadly, giving is not always its own reward. At least not for long. While giving has been shown via MRI studies to give people a jolt of “feel good” dopamine, this feeling will not last long by itself.
It’s incumbent on you to sustain the good feeling through acts of gratitude.
And the most important act is the first one: the thank you!
The Thank You Kick-Starts the Relationship-Building Process
It establishes trust, the foundation upon which all sustainable fundraising relies.
Without it, there’s nothing transformational about the process for the donor. It’s merely a one-off transaction, and not a particularly satisfying one.
Stop resenting the work of building a fantabulous thank you program. Don’t think of it as something you have to do (onerous work), but as something you get to do (joyful work, because it means you have something for which to be grateful).
Begin by sitting down and developing a donor love and loyalty plan. Start from the date the donor’s gift is received (via online or offline channel), and work forward considering what actions you’ll take every day for the next number of weeks (before you’re planning to ask again).
Through the course of the year, assuming you’ll be asking more than once, strive for at least a monthly demonstration of authentic gratitude. Research shows gratitude must be both swift and repeated in order to stick.
Specific Ways to Get Your Gratitude On
- Send a thank you letter within 48 hours. if you can’t make this happen, you’re going to lose donors,
- Send online donors immediately to a dedicated thank you confirmation page. Include inspirational elements, like a visual that demonstrates the good their gift will accomplish.
- Set up a warm, automated thank you email that’s triggered by the donation. The very next time the donor visits their inbox they should see this “feel good” message. (e.g., “You are the best!” “Hats off to you!” “You’re a smile maker.”).
- Make a prompt thank you phone call. If you can’t call everyone, make a list of those most important to call. I like to do this for all first-time donors, and also for donors who’ve upgraded their gifts or given above-average sized gifts.
- Send a thank you text. This is an alternative to making a call immediately after the gift is made, and it’s something you can do periodically throughout the year to remind donors of the good things they’re making possible.
- Send a welcome package for new donors. Include volunteer opportunities, invitations to free events, and at least one heart-warming story about, or thank you from, someone their gift helps.
- Add a handwritten note to the thank you letter. It will make you stand out as personal, not formulaic and robotic. This can be added at the same time you sign the letter (e.g., “Your continued support warms our hearts,” or “You are wonderful to renew your support”).
If you only ask once a year (I hope not), then you’ll need a 12-month engagement plan to keep your donor close. If you plan to ask quarterly, you’ll need a 12-week plan. And so forth. And, of course, if the donor doesn’t give when you make your second ask, continue on with your engagement plan until you’re ready to ask again. Persist!
Want to Learn More about the Key Role Gratitude Plays in Donor Retention?
Grab my Attitude of Gratitude Donor Guide. I’ve taken everything I’ve learned about sustaining donor relationships over the years and tucked it into one handy no-nonsense guide on the practice of gratitude. It also includes sample templates, worksheets and my Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors guide with 72 ideas you can use!
Within the 130 pages you’ll find everything from how to persuade your leadership of the value of putting resources into prompt, personal thanks to… how to create a meaningful thank you email… to how to thank your donors on social media. It’s all in here. The tried-and-true and the dare-to-try! If you read this guide, and use it, you’ll raise more money every year from here on out. And if you’re not happy, there’s a 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% refund guarantee.
I am grateful to you for doing such important work. Thank you for being you.
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Pexels