Donor Recognition: The Real Key to Retention
Another Merkle client has been extremely successful on the print and mail side of acknowledgments. Sayre says this client stands out because it pulls in lots of additional data points and includes that information in its donor acknowledgments to make the messages feel uber-personal. The messaging thanks donors for the specific campaign they donated to, emphasizes how that specific donation benefits that specific campaign and what that money is accomplishing. Basically, it’s about linking the message back to the end result and using the data on the donor to make it really evident how that donation made a difference.
Another organization Sayre points out is Operation Smile, which has really emphasized donor recognition the past four or five years. By putting donors at the forefront and recognizing them in timely, personal ways throughout all its messaging, the organization has become one of the largest and most successful nonprofits out there. Operation Smile utilizes all the best practices in its acknowledgment program, ranging from anniversary messages to timely gift acknowledgments to loyalty upgrade communications.
The future of recognition
While there is so much fundraisers can already do with the technology and data available to them to recognize donors, the future holds even more promise for more personal communications. Merkle, for instance, has started to test capturing what Sayre calls micro data at the donor level to provide to its nonprofit clients for use in acknowledgments. For example, many nonprofits include a business reply envelope with postage paid in their direct-mail appeals. It’s typical for some donors to apply a stamp anyway as a way to give extra money to the nonprofit, since it then gets a refund on the postage. So Merkle has started tracking anytime it detects a donor has applied a stamp, setting a specific code, which allows its clients to immediately incorporate that into the acknowledgment, thanking the donor for providing his or her own postage.