8 ways to refresh & renew thank yous for better retention

June 8th, 2018

How good do you think your organization is at saying ‘thank you’?

More importantly, how good do your donors think you are?

With retention rates steadily declining, experience says we need a healthy dose of some good old fashion manners when it comes to our thank yous.

Sure, times are tough, money is tight and acknowledgements are expensive. But recruiting new donors is expensive and cultivating valuable multi-year donors takes, well, multiple years! We need to retain as many donors as we can.

Donors are forgiving, but only to a point, and as the drumbeat of solicitations increase and the quality of our gratefulness decreases, organizations are reaching a critical point.

So rather than focus on how to make one more multi-channel donation request, let’s focus our innovation and creativity on giving donors a fully-integrated, fully-appreciative thank you.

8 ways to refresh & renew thank yous for better retention

  1.  Invest in success.
    We can’t keep doing thank yous on the cheap and expect unfettered love and loyalty from our donors.  From postage treatment to timeliness to soft (or hard) asks we’re chipping away at the level of gratefulness we’re showing for our donors’ gifts.  Instead use first class postage as often as you can.  Tighten up the turnarounds.   Show the donors their gift was worthy of a timely acknowledgement.  It’s the least we could be doing.

  3.  Don’t line item your acknowledgements.
    It’s hard not to look at the expense from an acknowledgement program and wonder how you could lower that cost.  When it shows up separately we have a tendency to think of it as pure expense unrelated to the line items in the revenue generating programs.  Rather show the cost of acknowledgements as an appeal, renewal, acquisition, or other program expense.  You’ll be less likely to tinker with the costs when they are tied to the revenue.

  5.  Multi-thanks.
    Thank yous should not be ‘one and done’.  If your donor is making a special gift, then show them that you think it’s special too.  Your donor will expect the first thank you – they should since the IRS requires it for most gifts – but you’ll make a bigger impression when you go beyond the norm and thank them again for that special gift.

  7.  Mix it up.
    Thank yous do not need to be limited to the channels that secured the gift.  Send one through the mail and email the other if you have their email address … or follow-up the email thank you with a phone call from a staff person or volunteer.  The key is to integrate your thank yous and  break the routine of what the donor expects to get the donor’s attention and let them know how much you appreciate them.

  9.  Be genuinely grateful.
    Your donor has just acted out of pure kindness – she sent you a donation to further your mission.  Take this opportunity to really think about what that means and then express that in your thank you letters, emails and phone calls.

  11.  Be personal.
    Add that special touch of a handwritten note to recognize the donor’s selflessness.  Make your acknowledgement look and feel like a real human touched it.

  13.  Use this moment to inspire your donor for more greatness.
    Upgrades and major gifts don’t just happen because we sent the perfect upgrade appeal or ‘graduated’ the donor to the major gifts department.  They happen because the donor felt inspired by what else she could do and what else the organization could do with just a little more funding.  So no matter the channel,  make your expression of thanks noteworthy.

  15.  Be creative and keep it fresh.
    Change up the copy on your thank you letters periodically.  Have a thank you letter signed by a client being served, parent of a child, even an animal, instead of the CEO.   Link to special photos or videos to show how the money is being used.  Include leftover decals or magnets used in acquisition as special inserts to surprise and delight your donors.


So rather than focus on how to make one more multi-channel donation request, focus our innovation and creativity on giving donors a fully-integrated, fully-appreciative thank you.

Let’s make our mothers proud. Give a proper thank you and you’ll see your revenue grow.

Category: News