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The Power of Saying "Thank You"

Thank you. Two simple words. 

Who takes the time to truly say “thank you”? Does getting a text from your nephew thanking you for the birthday gift count as a true thank you? Or does it feel like he took the easy route to this long-standing etiquette rule? Is a text acceptable? An email? Does it need to be handwritten on personalized stationery? Does anyone even have personalized stationery anymore?

Does saying “thank you” really matter?

Absolutely! It’s a critical step in the donor journey with your organization. Getting it right will help build your organization’s relationship with the donor. Here’s a great example:

Several years ago I was working with an animal welfare organization and, in an effort to better understand the donor journey of this organization versus similar organizations, I embarked on a little experiment. I gave a gift to this organization for the first time ever. I also gave to four other animal welfare organizations — again my first gift ever to these organizations. All gifts were $25, all unsolicited, all online, and all were made on the same day.

Each organization thanked me for my gift. Each organization provided the standard immediate thank-you/confirmation page. From there, the acknowledgements and subsequent communications varied. From some of the organizations I received an email thank you, while from others I got both email and direct mail thank you. In the following weeks and months, I received surveys, newsletters and fundraising appeals from each organization.

But one organization did something different. I received a personal phone call from a member of their leadership team thanking me for my gift. We chatted for about five minutes and the phone call ended with an open invitation to visit them any time. 

The way nonprofits follow up with new donors varies widely

Differentiating your organization can be powerful.

I never intended to become a donor to any of these organizations — I was simply doing research. But this one phone call changed that. The passion and commitment shared by this leader fueled my desire to learn more. I read their newsletters more frequently than those I received from the other animal welfare organizations. I became more interested in what this organization was doing, and when it came time to complete my year-end charitable giving, I added this organization to my list of worthy nonprofits.

Most organizations don’t have the resources to call and thank every donor personally, but I bet they could probably call some new donors. Assume there are 10 people on your leadership team; if they could each make two thank-you calls a day, that would be over 5,000 thank-you phone calls a year — at no additional cost to your organization. How would the donor journey of these 5,000 people change based on this phone call? 

You’re probably thinking, “I can’t call all of my new donors, and even if I could get my leadership team to commit to making these calls, how do I decide who to call?” Naturally, there are a number of ways to prioritize calling these donors. Some are simple and some are more complex.  Here are a few thought starters for you:
  • Run a wealth overlay on your new donors each week and prioritize your thank you calls based on the donor’s ability to give large gifts. Their initial $25 gift could turn into a much larger gift down the road if cultivated properly.
  • Model your new donors based on both their ability to give and their propensity to give – both are important factors.
  • Call the top 10% of donors based on the gift amount from the past week.
  • Call donors over a certain gift amount.

Does saying “thank you” really matter?

Five years later, I still give to the organization that called me. They did something different, and it made an impact. That text from my nephew — not so much.

Check out our on-demand webinar with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “Donor-Centric Fundraising: The professional fundraiser’s practical guide to the next generation of direct response giving” and learn how you too can become more donor-centric.