Thanking your donors – why it’s important
11 July 2023 | By Rebecca Ward
Having a large pool of donors committed to your cause in the long term is a dream for all charities, but more than 60% of nonprofits don’t thank their benefactors properly whether slow, impersonal or well, not at all. It is essential for your organisation to show gratitude to your supporters if you hope to retain them.
Donor retention for new donors is 25% while for repeat donors this is 63%; this means it is far more difficult to retain new benefactors compared to repeat donors. Therefore, securing the second gift is essential for your organisation since it increases the odds of retaining a supporter in the longer term by a significant amount.
Some of the reasons for donor attrition, i.e., the rate at which donors do not renew their gifts, can be difficult to remedy, but 13% of donors stopped giving to an organisation because they never got thanked. Thanking your donors is a crucial part of donor stewardship, yet it is easy to see how this could fall by the wayside after receiving an initial donation – especially if you are a small organisation without the use of an integrated CRM platform. A “thank you” is often the first point of communication between your organisation and its benefactors. It is not just an expression of gratitude or good manners – think of it as a choice between saying “thank you” and building relationships with your supporters in the long term, or saying “goodbye” to them.
“Donor loyalty is not about the donor being loyal to you, it is you being loyal to them.”
Harvey McKinnon (Author)
It goes without saying therefore that thanking your donors is one of the easiest methods of donor retention, but it seems that we need to refresh ourselves on the “why” and “how” of thanking your supporters.
Here are a few main reasons why you should thank your donors:
- A piece of the puzzle of donor attrition: There are many reasons for donor attrition which are related to not thanking your benefactors, such as poor communication, a lack of information shared about how money was spent, and a lack of urgency / a sense in which donors don’t feel that their donation is needed. Thanking your donors is therefore the first piece of the puzzle; in a thank you note, you can inform the benefactor where their money is being used as well as show how valuable their support is.
- The human element: Generally, it is human nature that drives charitable and philanthropic activity; a donor’s first donation is usually motivated by selfless reasons, and/or rooted in personal values and principles. Charities Aid Foundation found that 96% of people said that they felt they had the moral duty to use what they had to help others. At the same time, humans crave the feeling of social belonging which is triggered by recognition. Treating your benefactors as important will encourage them to continue donating to your organisation, whereas treating them as unimportant leads them to think that they are not needed.
Small or medium sized organisations may not have the resources or opportunities for lavish gifts or appreciation events. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you cannot show appreciation towards your donors. Here are some key points to remember on how to thank your benefactors in a meaningful and effective way:
- Be Quick: Research shows that a personal thank you message received in 48 hours makes donors 400% more likely to donate again. Therefore, it is key to send your supporters the message of appreciation quickly.
- Be personal: Make sure to use your donor’s first name in the email before acknowledging the gift amount and mentioning where their funding will be used, making sure to make it about them. Using language such as “because of your support” and “we couldn’t help them without your support”, you can personally connect to the benefactor. The Zahra Trust thank their donors personally as soon as they make a contribution on their website whilst also prompting them to share their donation on social media. They then send an email using language such as “It is through your continued support that we are able to deliver life-changing projects to the most vulnerable people across the world”, before providing information as to where a donor’s money will be going.
- Show them your impact: Showing a heart-warming photo of the projects or people that your donors help to support is sometimes stronger than plain text, charts, graphs or infographics. An image or even a video in an email saying thank you is essential since they are so simple yet so powerful. Services such as Thankview and Bonjoro make it even easier to connect to your benefactors through personalised videos sent directly to their inboxes.
- An opportunity to go further: Showing your appreciation doesn’t just stop at a thank you email, you can go even further with a handwritten note or a video. Marie Curie for example send 2000 handwritten notes of appreciation to their most loyal supporters every year as part of #GivingTuesday. This is a perfect way to say thank you in a more personal way and keep your donors connected to the organisation. You can even offer your supporters the opportunity to connect physically with your organisation and see your work behind the scenes through volunteering opportunities and tours of your facilities. All of this will also have the extra benefit of spreading the word about your organisation through your supporters’ networks.
Showing gratitude to your donors is essential for cultivating long-lasting relationships and ensuring continued support for your cause. Something as simple as a personalised email or video goes a long way in building a community of passionate supporters who share your vision of making a positive impact on the world.
(Written by Shahidali Suteria, Development Intern)