Sometimes this opportunity is missed because being small is a double-edged sword: people can feel very connected to a small nonprofit, but staff (volunteer or paid) is stretched thin with no one tasked to say "thank you" to donors. Organizations struggling with this situation should consider carefully whether their time would actually be better spent expressing their thanks than doing other tasks. Elizabeth Boris director of the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute says charities should work to maintain donor relationships "since it’s much cheaper to retain existing donors than it is to continually find new ones." Donors will take their money elsewhere, so don't take them for granted!
Prioritizing appreciation of supporters is something at which small nonprofits can and should excel. Below are some simple ideas to make sure you always keep your donors happy.
- Promptly (ideally within one week) send handwritten thank you notes for gifts: If the official receipt for tax purposes has to come a little later that's okay, but get the heartfelt note out ASAP while the donor is still glowing from their good deed
- Pick a donation level at which donors get a personal thank you call: In this day of digital communication a phone call is almost as vintage as a handwritten note, which will make the effort stand out
- Randomly pick donors to call, regardless of how much they gave: Every donation should be valued!
- Send your thank you letter in a beautiful card rather than on organizational stationary: While there's a place for the official-ness of stationary, there's also a place for the intimacy of a card and it conveys that the donor is special. Think of this example from "real" life: Grandma doesn't send her birthday wishes on formal stationary, she sends them in a sappy greeting card with pictures of flowers, sunsets, and cute animals--and you feel one-of-a-kind every time!
- Don't send another request for a donation unless and until the donor receives a thank you: It's just tacky to do otherwise, right?
- Think of a unique and fun way to say "thank you": Letters of thanks can feel very stilted and distant, so truly express how thankful you are by thinking outside the box and using *gasp* adjectives and maybe even a little silliness (you know your constituency best)