Why Emphasize Donor Appreciation? 5 Reasons to Say Thank You

19 Oct 2021 By Roger Devine

This is a guest blog, by Jay Love of Bloomerang

Imagine you bought a thoughtful gift to give to a friend for their birthday. You were excited to make their day and to surprise them with something special. But when they received the gift, they didn’t say thank you.

We hope you’ve never experienced the disappointment that accompanies a lack of appreciation. We also hope that any experience you might have had informs how you look at thanking your donors. As you can imagine, if you don’t provide adequate appreciation for your supporters, they may feel let down.

Your organization relies on donations to make your mission possible. Showing appreciation is not only polite, but it also helps you raise additional funds.

Thanking your donors is the first step to donor retention, one of the most important metrics your organization can track. Retaining supporters is the key to having less expensive acquisition rates and securing additional funds as supporters give more over time.

Not showing adequate appreciation for supporters has been shown to negatively impact your retention rate in several different ways.Bloomerang’s donor appreciation guide provides the following graphic showing why donors tend to lapse according to a study conducted by Adrian Sargeant:

Many of these reasons for lapsing can be addressed and prevented if your organization creates a more impactful donor appreciation strategy. We’ll be using the statistics above throughout the article to show why donor appreciation is so important and how you can prevent donor lapse and bolster retention rate. Let’s get started.

1. Appreciation shows that your organization needs the supporter.

5% of donors lapsed because they thought the charity did not need them.

When you write an appropriate appreciation note, your supporters should understand just how important their gift is to the success of your organization. This part of the appreciation process actually begins with the ask itself.

When you write a donation request or provide a campaign page for supporters to give to, clearly define the purpose of the gifts.Fundraising Letters’ guide to donation request letters explains that your organization should “make sure to explain to your donors how their specific donation will contribute to your cause. Give examples of the specific, physical impact the donation will have.”

For example, you might say something like:

Please consider donating to help purchase back-to-school supplies for kids in at-risk communities. A gift of $50 provides backpacks filled with notebooks, pencils, pens, books, and all other supplies necessary for a child to return to school.

After the donation is submitted, return to this ask and reiterate the same information in the appreciation letter.

This helps drive home the point that the donation made a real difference in the lives of the constituents. For instance, if a supporter provided the $50 donation requested in the letter above, the organization might write the following in the appreciation letter:

Thank you for contributing to the Back-to-School campaign. Throughout this campaign, we provided school supplies to 1,000 kids heading back to school in at-risk communities. Your donation of $50 helped a child like Timmy, who says, “I wasn’t sure how I was going to carry everything at school this year. The backpack and school supplies gave me everything I needed for a great school year!”

Providing the need in the ask and returning to it in the thank you letter encourages supporters to give and shows them that their contributions were useful in making an impact that supports your organization’s impact. It shows them that you did and_do_ need their help for your campaigns.

2. Appreciation reminds supporters of their contributions.

9% of donors lapsed because they had no memory of supporting the organization.

If your donors forget your organization, it shows that you did not make a lasting impression on them. In order to make an impression, your organization needs to maintain communications with the supporter, reminding them about your cause and specifically about the campaign that drove them to contribute.

When supporters contribute to a fundraising campaign, they do so because they feel a connection and emotional draw to the purpose of the campaign. Rarely do supporters give to organizations; they give to causes.

To remind supporters of the reason they gave in the first place, focus your efforts on providing updates and information about the program or project they specifically supported with their gift. For instance, if a donor contributed to the school supplies program featured in the previous section, you should provide updates relevant to those children and their educations before diving into your other program regarding food insecurity in those neighborhoods.

After you’ve captured their attention with the campaigns you_know_ they feel strongly about, you can start appealing to donors for other types of campaigns as well.

To emphasize the donation that supporters gave and the campaign they supported, take a multi-channel outreach approach.

Use a number of platforms to reach out and say thank you to increase the chances that the supporter sees the message of appreciation and remembers their gift soon after it’s given. These platforms may include:

  • Email. Supporters should receive an immediate confirmation of their gift to your school. Try following up to say thank you again over email after the fundraising campaign comes to an end, reinforcing your appreciation for the supporter’s contribution.
  • Social media. Encourage your supporters to follow your organization on social media platforms, use your organization’s hashtags, and join social groups with other supporters. Then, post updates about the campaign’s progress and send both blanket and personal thank you messages over these platforms.
  • Phone calls. Especially after the initial gift your supporters make, give them a quick call to tell them how much you appreciate their contributions and support. These phone calls provide a more human element to your organization and a new way to show supporters you care.
  • Direct mail. Send physical letters to your supporters providing them with updates on the campaign they supported and to say thank you. To make these even more personal, try asking your board members to write the letters by hand.

Even if they don’t thoroughly read each and every email or social post you put out there, the repetition of seeing your logo and brand across a variety of platforms will help drive increased brand awareness for your cause. This alone will help supporters remember their contribution to your cause and drive further trust in your organization’s brand moving forward.

3. Provide additional communication opportunities.

18% of supporters lapsed because they thought the charity had poor service or communication.

When a supporter gives, you need to thank them more than once. Use a number of communication platforms to say it over and over again. In the last section, we covered a number of different platforms that you can use to show your appreciation. But that doesn’t mean you should copy and paste the same appreciation message for each platform.

Use your various communication platforms to show your appreciation in numerous ways and with different messages depending on who the audience is and what platform you’re using.

Build a follow-up plan for each segment of your organization’s donors that spaces out different messages and personalizes them for the different audiences. For instance, consider the following ideas:

  • After a first-time donor gives their initial contribution, you might decide to provide an initial confirmation message, call them to say thank you, and send your latest two to three newsletters to catch them up on the variety of programs you offer.
  • When a recurring donor goes out of their way to show extra support for a capital campaign, you might call to say thank you, send a gift in exchange for their donation, and provide ongoing updates about the campaign’s progress.
  • When a major donor gives to your organization, you might set up a time to meet them out for coffee, send a handwritten thank-you note, ask them for input about future projects, and place their name on a recognition wall.

Creating a variety of pathways to continue reaching out to supporters after they give to your organization ensures you’re not only providing consistent communications, but you’re also providing the right communications for the right audiences. This is a part of a great stewardship strategy.

Don’t forget that you can always study up on the go regarding supporters’ engagement details via a donor database app prior to in-person encounters. This means you’ll be able to personalize in-person communications such as if you schedule meetings with your supporters to say thank you.

4. Allow your organization to demonstrate impact.

8% of donors lapsed because they had no information about how the money was used.

36% of donors lapsed because they thought others were more deserving.

We lumped together these two statistics because they’re closely related.

When supporters know that their contribution is going to a deserving recipient, they’ll get a warm, fuzzy feeling about the gift. However, if they’re unclear about how the money was used, that supporter could become skeptical and even distrusting of the organization to which they gave. They’ll be more likely to move to support an organization where they know for certain that their gift makes a difference.

In your appreciation letter, provide supporters with an impact statement regarding their gift. This may look slightly different for different levels of supporters:

  • Major donors. Invite your major gift donors to attend a meeting with your organization’s executives. That way, you can provide a presentation showing the progress of various programs at the organization. Show supporters how much of that progress is thanks to their generosity and thank them profusely for their support.
  • Mid-tier donors. Mid-tier donors may be on their way to becoming future major gift donors at your organization. Show them their current role at your organization by providing an impact statement in a letter. You might also call them to explain some of the same metrics from the presentation for major supporters. This is especially relevant for those mid-tier donors most likely to become major donors.
  • Lower-level donors. For your lower-level supporters, provide an impact statement explaining what the campaign accomplished. You may not have time to comb through and explain the impact of each $15 gift; however, you can explain what all the composite gifts accomplished and thank the supporter for being a part of this campaign.

Demonstrating impact is important to retain donors of all levels. And keep in mind that when you show appreciation and retain donors, they’ll be more likely to move up to the next level. Useprospect research to determine which supporters have the most capacity to move up to the next level of support. Then, pay close attention to these supporters during your outreach and appreciation.

5. Showing appreciation is a polite gesture after a gift.

13% of supporters lapsed because they were never thanked for donating.

As a kid, we’re taught that if we receive something, we need to say thank you. Our parents drilled the lesson into us. So we shouldn’t abandon that sense of gratitude and politeness as adults!

It’s polite to show appreciation for supporters. Plus, as many organizations have become more adept with technology, supporters have begun to expect at least an email thanking them for their contributions. Many donors will stop giving immediately when they don’t feel appreciated.

To stand out from the crowd of average organizations that only provide an initial thank you email, you should leverage the tips throughout this guide to go above and beyond to show your appreciation for supporters.

You have an obligation to say thank you for donors’ contributions to meet donor expectations. Each gift is a new opportunity to show that you care about your supporters and to show your appreciation for their continued support.

Emphasizing donor appreciation is simply polite. However, it’s also a strategic way to help your organization grow its various programs over time. Going above and beyond in your donor appreciation sets your organization apart from your competition, showing supporters that you need them and that their gifts make a difference.

Carefully craft your appreciation plans, taking a multi-channel, multi-step approach to say thank you more than once. Be sure each note of appreciation is personalized for the recipient to make the greatest impact. This will help bolster your organization’s donor retention and help you raise more over time.

About the author: Jay Love is the Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang

He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.

Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.

He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.