Donor Recognition: The Real Key to Retention
“The more data embedded in the thank-you, the more personal and more direct link exists between the nonprofit and the donor,” he says. “If I donated to a campaign to help a specific country or illness, for example, reference that in the acknowledgment instead of just thanking me for my $20 gift.”
The more personal the acknowledgment, the more appreciated the donor feels — which greatly increases the likelihood of that donor remaining loyal.
Beyond just implementing data points into the body of the donor recognition communications, there’s the opportunity for fundraisers to get creative with other materials, specifically in direct mail. For instance, Sayre says, if the donor indicates via the data the nonprofit has previously captured that she prefers to donate to dog-related programs instead of cat-related programs, you could include an insert on the dog program into the acknowledgment. Or in e-communications, you could include a link to the new dog shelter being built, etc.
“Again, it comes back to honoring the donor’s wishes, not ignoring the note in your data,” Sayre says. “That’s something that is starting to become more of a trend as well — not just customizing the letter body, but what else can you include based on what you know about the donor.”
Surprise thy donor
Sayre has seen many Merkle clients run effective donor acknowledgment programs through several different channels. One, a very large, prominent nonprofit, has started doing outbound thank-you calls to a target list of its donors. These calls are strictly donor recognition calls, thanking donors for their gifts and loyalty, with no ask. Turns out, it has been a pleasant surprise to donors, many of whom have shared that they were stunned by getting a call from a nonprofit with no ask for money. It’s had a big impact with donors, having personal conversations simply to say thanks, which Sayre says is starting to slowly emerge as a best practice.