They Stuck by You — Now It's Time to Say 'Thanks'
The "recession that never ends" will celebrate its fourth birthday in December. Nonprofits have suffered, employees have felt their pain and donors have had to re-evaluate their priorities.
And some of those donors have stuck by you the entire time. They kept giving, even when their income was uncertain, shrinking or stagnant. They mailed in their checks despite runaway gas prices and soaring grocery prices. They clicked to give online despite being bombarded with bad news day after day.
It's time to tell them how much you appreciate them.
Oh sure, you've been sending them receipts, annual reports and newsletters. But let's be honest — these people have shown an extraordinary level of commitment to your organization. It would have been easy to stop giving; after all, no one would be surprised if a donor cut back. Any guilt could easily be dismissed given the barrage of economic maladies we've faced.
How can you send a very special "thank you" to these incredibly loyal donors? I'm not talking about an expensive premium; most of your donors sacrificed so you could carry out the mission that they believe in, not buy them a coffee cup or book. Instead, consider ways to show appreciation that will resonate with your supporters. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
A letter 'just because'
Send a personal letter (or better yet, have staff handwrite a short note) to anyone who has given at least once in the last three or four years. Acknowledge that the donors have been faithful givers and you are incredibly grateful. Don't bring up reminders of the recession or mention how hard you've been hit by declining income. Rather, in just a few short paragraphs, say thank you and tell your donors how much you appreciate them.
A club that honors longevity
A program that doesn't pull people out of the regular mail but rather honors them once a year with a letter or e-mail thanking them for giving X years in a row is a great way to show how much you appreciate their consistent giving.
A side benefit: If you develop a program with graduated levels (topaz for giving three years, ruby for giving five years and diamond for giving eight years in a row, for example) and tell a donor when he or she will move up to the next level, you may reduce your attrition rate.
Including a membership card (does not need to be personalized) reminds your donors that they matter to you and gives them something to hold on to that consistently reaffirms this message. Or send a key fob as a membership token. Your organization (and your appreciation) will get frequent attention as donors sort through the fobs on their key chains to find the grocery store loyalty swipe card, the gym membership fob or the frequent shopper discount card.
An invitation to a private phone briefing
Invite all your donors who have given for three or more years in a row — regardless of the level of giving — to be part of a telephone call to hear your president or a program staff person talk about a new project, great results or another celebratory activity. Choose someone to speak who is a compelling speaker, and be sure to begin and end by telling your donors that their faithful support is what makes your work possible.
Your goal isn't to lay out a new support opportunity, but rather to give your most faithful donors a sense of going "behind the scenes" with you to hear about something before it is public knowledge. Being invited to be on the inside is a great way to feel valued.
Something in the mail that matters
A variation of the letter is to send your loyal supporters an attractive greeting card that thanks them for being an important fried to your organization. A square-ish envelope with a card inside stands out in the mail, and your message of gratitude may brighten many of the recipients' days. You may want to include a small, inexpensive, mission-centric premium with this: a bookmark made by the people you serve, a drawing by the children in your program or a great photo from your project that is a "keeper," for example.
How are you showing your donors that you are grateful they have stuck with you through some of the most economically challenging times that most of us have experienced? If you have a great idea, please share it with others in the comments section below.
And thank you — just because!
Pamela Barden is the creative juice and the copywriting machine behind PJBarden Inc., a consulting firm focusing on helping small to midsized nonprofits see big results in fundraising. You can follow Pamela on Twitter @pjbarden.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.