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It feels good to be appreciated. Deep down, even the humblest individuals want to be acknowledged for doing something good. This is why it is so important to thank your donors. They made a selfless contribution to your organization, without expecting anything in return. But what if you gave them something they didn’t anticipate — a unique, personal-feeling thank you.

You probably already have a method in place for thanking donors when they leave a gift. Perhaps an automated email that thanks them for “their recent donation.” Maybe after clicking on donate, they are directed to a web page with the words, “Thank You!” In large print.

These strategies are a good start, but if you can make your stewardship outreach feel unique and relevant for each donor, you will see an increase in repeat gifts and overall engagement with your organization. Today, more than ever, donor retention is not an option. Acquiring donors that stay for the long term are essential for continued success.

You Do Thank Your Donors, Right?

If you don’t have an email set up to send after a donor contributes through your website, you need to make that a priority. First of all, it is important that your donors know that you received their gift. Don’t make them wait to check their credit card statement to see if it went through!

Not thanking donors at all is a surefire way to ensure they never make another gift. Isn’t it annoying when you hold the door open for someone, and they don’t at least mutter, “thanks”? Imagine how a donor would feel if they gifted $100 to your organization and never heard back. They won’t be as eager the next time a giving opportunity arises.

Thank Your Donors

Building on Your Current Strategy

If you have a generic thank you email that is sent following each online gift, that’s good. But you need to do more. Most automated email services allow you to add variable elements in your automated emails. You can use these services to include information provided by the donor in your response.

Think about all the data you collect online before a donor presses that “Give” button. At the least, you know their name and how much they donated. You also probably have data about any past gifts and can glean more information about what programs they are interested in by tacking the pages they visit on your website.

Including basic information like this prevents the donor from feeling like you didn’t really appreciate their gift. “Thank you for your gift of $100 to the annual fund” feels more personal than “Thank you for donating.”

Other Ways to Thank Your Donors

While emails and webpages are the most immediate way to thank your online donors, there are several other ways to thank your donors in a memorable way. Remember, the goal is to make donors feel appreciated and to let them know their money went to further your nonprofit’s mission.

Consider sending a handwritten letter to your donors to follow up on your email. While you can use the strategies discussed in this post to make your thank you feel more personal, nothing beats a handwritten letter. Consider sending your donors a note of appreciation from your organization’s leadership or the people who directly benefited from their contribution.

If your schedule allows it, consider picking up the phone and thanking donors with a phone call. They will feel honored that someone from your organization took the time to call personally. You can also use this opportunity to gather new insights during your conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask what inspired them to give in the first place, and what would motivate them to make another donation in the future. Many organizations call their largest donors to say thank you. However, it is a good idea to call donors of all giving levels to thank them. The information you glean about why they donated is invaluable for improving your strategy for all donors.

In addition to thanking donors directly, consider acknowledging them in a public forum. As we mentioned earlier, even the humblest donors want to be recognized. Thanking a donor publicly has the added benefit of showing other prospective donors how much your organization values those who contribute to the cause. Consider thanking donors on social media, in newsletters and annual reports, or at events hosted by your organization.

Thank Your Donors

Impact on Future Giving

Put special attention into thanking first-time donors for their gift. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, only 19 percent of first-time donors make a second gift. However, repeat donors are retained at a much higher rate, 63 percent!

Finding ways to say thank you in unique ways that feel personal and relevant to each donor is essential if you want to convert those one-off donors into long-term ones.

Potential first-time donors are not as familiar with your organization, so you need to make sure they are educated and engaged enough to make a contribution. This is the only way that they will consider making a second donation down the line. According to Bloomerang, it can cost between 50 and 100 percent more to acquire a new donor than you will receive from their first gift.

As a result, converting one-time donors into long-term donors is essential for your nonprofit’s long-term stability. Don’t throw away your money securing a one-time gift. That initial donation is just the beginning of a new donor/organization relationship. Focus on encouraging donors who have given once to do so again by thanking them in a way that leaves an impression and lets them know you truly appreciate their effort to further the cause.

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