Are You Forgetting the Most Important Part of Your Year-End Fundraising Appeal?
You’re in the midst of year-end appeal season, and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Have you forgotten a critical component of your campaign?
I’ve encountered the forgotten, and it’s not pretty. I’ll explain it to you like this:
Recently, I made an online donation to a local arts organization. Fortunately, yes, contrary to many instances, I did receive a thank-you letter, even if it wasn’t the most prompt delivery. The letter arrived approximately four weeks after I made my gift.
Alas, the letter itself left something to be desired. It was the standard thank-you letter.
Any letter that begins: "Dear Ms. Grow" is bound to make me feel old from the get-go, even though that’s obviously not the intent.
I read on: "Thank you for supporting XYZ with your gift of $XX. We are delighted to welcome you to our esteemed group of friends and supporters. We look forward … We greatly appreciate your support of our mission to …"
The kind of letter where "Oh, I guess they got my check" clicks midway into the second paragraph, prompting you to toss it in with your tax papers until next January.
Was I left feeling in any way inspired about the gift I’d made? You tell me.
Stephen Covey’s mantra is a wise one:
"Begin with the end in mind."
You want to inspire a deep, long-term relationship with your donor, don’t you? Don’t all fundraisers? Yet when I make a donation, the aftermath frequently leaves me feeling more castaway than Chuck Nolan. A letter thanking a donor for his or her first gift is the first step in laying the bricks for something sustainable, unless you decide to call them first (and I highly recommend that you do). Donor relationships that are built to last. There’s your "end in mind."
Think about it. Take a look at the numbers, because they shed some serious light:
- More than $373.25 billion was given in charitable donations in 2015—and 80 percent of those dollars came from individuals.
- Every 100 donors gained in 2015 was offset by 96 lost donors through attrition.
- Every $100 gained in 2015 was offset by $91 in losses through gift attrition.
I would venture to say that donor-centered fundraising is the only legitimate—I would go so far as to say honest—method to long-term, sustainable funding.
And when it comes to your donor-retention processes, there’s no better place to start than the simple act of rewriting your thank-you letters. I cannot stress this enough: Your organization’s thank you after your donor’s first gift sets the stage for a future relationship and future gifts.
Do your organization’s thank you letters ooze "donor love"? Or are your letters more reflective of a business transaction that happened?
On behalf of the board and staff of XYZ, thank you for your gift of $150 received on Dec. 7, 2016.
Don’t be that organization. Embrace the creativity, fun and joy that comes with communicating gratitude to someone who mattered to your organization. To someone who will potentially matter for far beyond tomorrow.
Unsure where to start? Double up on the gratitude with this handy thank-you letter template. It will help get you there, because you’ve got it in you. I know you do.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.