Make 2015 a Year of Resurrection: The Importance of Thanking and Retaining Donors
Over the last several months, I have developed a friendship with a woman who does not work in the fundraising world. And yet, she probably should because she does an important part of a fundraiser's job better than almost anyone I know.
She says thank you. And she says it in a way that makes me feel as if I am the only person in the world that matters to her and that my small action truly made a difference. I recently received a handwritten note from her related to my help to prepare Thanksgiving dinner (in exchange for joining in a delicious feast with her family). Nothing I did was that spectacular or sacrificial, but she recounted each with such gratitude that I wanted to do more for her.
Contrast this to the thank-you letters and receipts I have received this year to acknowledge the donations I've sent. I'm sorry — there is no comparison. In a world of horrific donor retention and declining response rates, we've somehow lost the ability to tell those who choose to give how much of a difference they made. Looking over my receipts I see some common — and easily corrected — issues.
We focus on ourselves. Yes, a donor wants to be reassured that she made a good decision when she chose to give. But that doesn't mean we have to send a letter that is 90 percent about the organization's accomplishments and has very little about the donor's importance in those accomplishments. In fact, the letters read like the organization has already solved all its problems and leave me wondering why the nonprofit needed my $50.
They sound like they were written by a computer, not a human. "You will find your receipt in this email ..." certainly is true, but it doesn't leave me feeling good about the gift I gave — and it certainly doesn't leave me wanting to give more. When the wording is accountant-speak it often is not relationship-building. "Your donation was successfully processed" does little to build a relationship. It has reduced my voluntary and sacrificial gift to a transaction.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.