The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

How “Wow!” Experiences Create Lifetime Donors

Zappos.com is an online shoe and apparel store whose mission is to deliver happiness through a philosophy of providing exemplary customer service to WOW! customers. Ever wonder if your organization could do the same?

A WOW! experience starts with the “Thank you.” Donors want to be sincerely thanked, so shy away from using typical nonprofit speak with statistics and jargon. Here are some more tips for composing an ideal thank-you letter.

1. Send them fast!

Send your thank you letters preferably within 48 hours but no more than a week after receiving a donation.

2. Spread joy.

Let your donors know that know they are heroes.

3. Be personal.

You don’t use “Dear Friend” in emails to your friends, so don’t address your donors that way either. Always try to use their first names.

4. Mention the donation.

In case your donors forgot, remind them of the amount they gave and the date when they did.

5. Give it meaning.

Elevate your donors’ donations from more than just a dollar amount and let them know how you’re putting their gift to good use.

6. Acknowledge past giving.

Are you writing to a repeat donor? Let me know how much you appreciate every gift you’ve received.

7. Don’t highlight the boring stuff.

Save tax deductible and legal terms can for the fine print at the bottom.

8. Don’t forget the P.S.

Drive them to your blog of your Facebook page to keep them involved.

9. Give the reader a contact.

Just as you’re writing to a real person, sign your letter from a real member of your organization who your donors can contact.

10. Never, ever ask for a second gift!

Once you’ve mastered thank-yous, what else can you do to WOW your donors?

8 Ways to Further Delight Your Donors

  • Welcome Kits.
    Send a package that thanks donors and encourages them to get more involved.
  • Get your board involved.
    Have them make donor thank you calls or handwrite letters.
  • Regular Surveying.
    People love to be asked for advice. Ask why your regular supporters keep contributing, and why new donors decided to give to you.
  • Gifts.
    Nothing big or expensive, but send something fun to your major donors to let them know you are thinking about them.
  • Social Media.
    Use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to say thank you.
  • Emails and phone calls.
    It’s great to email and call to thank donors, but be careful not solicit from them at the same time.
  • Communicate more not less.
    Provide great content and tell good stories while contacting your donors between 12 and 24 times per year.
  • Celebrate.
    Send out cards not just for Christmas, but for birthdays, Thanksgiving, or other holidays when you may get more attention.

When your donors are WOWed, they’ll continue to support your cause and become lifetime contributors. Make your donor not only feel appreciated, but also feel like a friend. The sooner you do, the closer your organization is to creating lifetime donors.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 19, 2012 and has been updated.

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About This Blog
Caryn Stein hi res

Caryn Stein
Vice President, Communications and Content, Network for Good

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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