The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The 4-Step Path to Stronger Thank Yous

Getting Ready for Your Fundraising Plan

As you probably suspected, thank you letters shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Just like the fundraising appeals that motivated donors to give, your acknowledgments to them should be personal, specific, and emotionally compelling. Making thank you letters a priority now will ultimately help you retain and grow your community of donors.

So, how do you do it? This post highlights four steps that can help you send timely and accurate appeals, delight your donors, and maintain your sanity in the process.

Step One: Understand the results of your campaign.

The campaign’s over, but the fun is just beginning! Now’s the time to ask yourself some key questions:

  • How many donors gave?
  • At what levels?
  • Did you have a lot of small amounts or a few large donors carrying the weight?
  • Did you meet your goals?
  • What will those dollars help you achieve?

Answering these questions will offer you a broad overview of your campaign’s results as well as an understanding of the impact of individual donations. That information is important to include in your acknowledgments because it reinforces that your donors aren’t just giving individual gifts, they’re part of a community working toward a common purpose.

Step Two: Keep your outcomes in mind.

Next, take out your crystal ball and imagine you can see into the future. What do you envision? Whether it’s reaching higher fundraising goals, encouraging middle donors to become event sponsors, or offering donors opportunities to learn about your programs, get clear about what you want to accomplish. Then, use your thank you letters and subsequent outreach to help make those goals become reality.

Step Three: Equip yourself with the right tools.

To get the most out of your fundraising and to communicate with donors in the right ways at the right times, you absolutely need a tool that helps you analyze trends and tracks more than gift amounts. This tool should help you easily store, sort, and retrieve donor information. Hint: Excel is not that tool.

You’ll save yourself (and your staff, and your donors, and… you get the idea) a lot of time and headache by implementing a donor management system focused on nonprofit fundraising. Need to get this in place? We can help. Get a personal tour of our easy-to-use donor management system created with nonprofits like yours in mind.

Step Four: Divide and conquer.

Now that you’re clear on what’s happened and what you need to do, it’s time to segment your donors and start tailoring your message to fit their experiences with your organization. If you’ve never done segmentation before, it’s ok to start small and keep it simple. Here are a few ideas to help you think about which groups might make sense for your donors.

  • Segment by giving level: It’s important to thank donors based on the amounts that they gave. You’ll want to mention their gift amount, but also illustrate the impact their gift will have. Plus, different donors need different acknowledgments. An email or postcard might be a great thank you for a $20 donor, but a $2,000 donor should get something more personal, like a handwritten note from your Executive Director. Decide which actions you’ll take for each level and make a plan to get it done.
  • Segment by entry point: Donors that come in via peer fundraising campaigns or social media might need a different type of welcome that event attendees or those already on your email list. Consider how your thank you can both welcome and educate donors about your work and their role in making it happen. (Note: you shouldn’t pack all of this into one email, but think about how your thank you letter provides the right introduction.)
  • Segment by giving history: Do you have regular annual donors? Monthly donors? Donors who gave this year but haven’t in years past? First-time donors? You guessed it: take the time to create tailored messages for these different donors.

Looking for more information on targeting donors? Barbara O’Reilly’s  Donor Segmentation 101 is a great place to learn about the building blocks of this important fundraising strategy.

Regardless of your organization’s overall fundraising approach, it’s important that the specific thank you letters your donors receive are closely tied to the campaign and actions they took when they made their donations. It’s not just the right and polite thing to do; it’s smart fundraising in action.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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

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