I was asked after a recent Matterness webinar for Wild Apricot about fun and meaningful ways to thank donors.
I wrote a few answers for Wild Apricot, but wanted to expand on the issue of thanking donors here. Organizations spend enormous amounts of time and resources identifying new donors for their efforts. One reason why they have to spend so much energy is because so few people give a second time. According to Penelope Burke’s excellent annual survey of donors, 65% of first-time donors don’t give again to the same cause. That’s a lot of lost people! And given that it is so easy to give once online to a cause that moves someone in an instant and that Millennials are more loyal to causes than institutions, this number is likely to increase not decrease.
Thank yous are a large part of the Churn inside organizations. A task to be kept up with, like opening the mail and answering email, rather than an opportunity to a transaction into a relationship. Thanking people with a form letter meant for the IRS just isn’t going to do it anymore. Or worse, thanking someone with a robotic reply that includes another ask for money ain’t gonna cut it.
Donors need to immediately feel like they sincerely matter to an organization, that they are more than a number on a check, that they have a name and a face and a story. And organizations have to reciprocate by revealing their own personalities and stories to donors as well.
I want to start a dynamic list of fun and interesting ways to thank people that will make them feel like they matter more (indeed that they actually do matter more!) and that will make them more likely to stick with the company/organization longer.
Here’s a start, please add to it:
- Handwritten Thank You. Sound old fashioned? Well, it is, but it’s also enormously effective! Of course, many organizational leaders will dismiss this idea as impractical (“Who has the time or manpower?”) And that’s where Matterness come in! By switching to an abundance lens, these leaders will see that there are lots of people who are willing to write notes who aren’t staff. This is a perfect example of a task that can be spread out and make volunteers feel like they matter more — including board members! Make a Google doc of donors and ask a group of volunteers to sign up to write notes by a certain date to them (and you can give them sample language) The doc will make everyone accountable to each other. I guarantee that the volunteers will enjoy their meaningful job and the donors will feel great about their donation and the organization (real people live inside this cause!)
- Invite Donors to an Intimate Social Event. This is from a great list of thank you ideas from Kivi Leroux Miller. Move people immediately from online to on land by including an invitation with the thank you to an in person event. It can be as simple as a casual lunch at someone’s office to learn more or a cocktail party at a board member’s house. A causal, social event where the donor can learn more about the cause and get to know other people who are giving to it and working for it.
- Crowdsource Thanks. Lisa Colton shared this really fun story with me. The Band Death Cab for Cutie had a new album coming out. As a fun gesture for their most loyal fans, they wrote out the lyrics to one song and a big canvas, cut it up and mailed the pieces to fans. They asked the fans to take a photo of their piece and post it on Instagram. When all the pieces were put together, their fans got a sneak preview of the lyrics, plus the “super fans” had their original pieces as keepsakes. This could be such a fun way to thank donors or volunteers. Imagine painting a big thank you note signed by the whole staff, then cutting it into pieces and mailing it to a group of people and asking them to upload the pics.
- Celebrate Small Donors. We need to even out the over-celebration of the 6 figure gift givers. We have all see the plaques in stores celebrating the Employee of the Month. Why not celebrate small donors of the month? And better, let them tell their own story about why they gave on your blog or Facebook page (or anywhere else!) Donors need to “see” people who look like them and give like them in order to keep giving.
- YouTube a Thanks. I was in Des Moines, IA a few years ago when the local credit union was opening a new branch. In order to entice people to stop by, they gave gift cards to people around town and posted videos this fun interaction. Organizations could visit a few donors and give them a handwritten thanks, or a small gift, for their donation and post the video. It will be fun and heartfelt – two things that can never be a bad thing!
People are not expecting extravagant thanks for their donations and efforts, in fact, many people don’t want them, but they do expect to be genuinely appreciated.
So, what fun ways have you tried, or would you like to try, to show your people that they really do matter to you?