Imagine that someone just donated to your nonprofit (yay!). Now, think about whether that person was taken to a generic confirmation page, or given an amazing thank you experience. From an early age we’re taught by our parents to say thank you, so why do we forget this in our donation user journeys?
Communications and development teams pore over donation page language and messaging, but too often they’ll leave the details of “donation confirmation” up to their donation tool. Regardless of the reason why we forget or rely on a basic confirmation page, we’re significantly overlooking the impact a proper ‘thank you’ may have on lifetime donor value.
Based on 2019 data benchmarks, 20% of first time donors don’t repeat their gift the following year. However, donors that receive a thank you message within 48 hours are 4 times more likely to give again according to Guidestar data. While there may be 99 problems and issues with the giving experience, we believe the ‘thank you’ shouldn’t be one.
How to Thank Donors: The “Thank 4 or More” Strategy
We challenge all of our nonprofit partners to thank each and every one of their donors four or more times each year following an initial donation. These “thank you’s” should be personal and direct wherever possible to have the biggest impact. Broad donor thank you messages in a social media post don’t really count, but it’s a start. Even better if you are able to send direct messages on the platform to known donors (and we have a tool to help you do just that for those pesky Facebook fundraisers). Personalized donor stewardship is also important, and we encourage our partners to continue with those efforts, whether it’s writing a personal thank you card or sending a message from your leadership or stakeholders. But we also recommend developing automated nurture flows that make sure that every donor gets four or more donation thank you messages after a donation. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas on how to thank donors that we’re thrilled to share:
1. Donation Page Confirmation
This is the page where a donor lands immediately after they’ve completed a donation transaction on your website. Don’t ignore it. It doesn’t feel good just to see “Thank you for completing your transaction” after you’ve made the effort to support a cause you believe in — something like “Thank you for helping us save the lives of dogs around the world” means so much more. Make the confirmation page more than just a generic receipt, and include a follow-up call to action, a picture and story of impact, a stakeholder testimonial, or even an official note from your leadership. You’ve got a captive and invested audience in this moment — use it to see how you can pique and continue to grow your donor’s interest in you.
2. Confirmation Email
Timing: Immediate / within 24 hours
Always, always send a confirmation and thank you email following a donation. This should include a receipt and tax info, but it’s also an opportunity to have some fun with your messaging and connect with your donor. A simple “Wow, Thanks for the donation” can go a long way, but also consider including an impact message from a stakeholder, a quote, or anything that might make them smile. This is also a good opportunity for a double opt-in or a direct ask to join your email list.
3. Followup Email
Timing: 10-30 days after initial gift
At this point, be ready to show the impact your donor’s dollars has had for your organization. Think of this as the “Thanks! This is how your gift is being put to work” email. Send a follow-up note to the donor that thanks them again for the gift and lets them know about any current programs and impact that their support is enabling. Include the donor name and amount if possible with dynamic fields to make sure the initial message is personalized.
4. Paid Facebook Birthday Ad
Timing: After 30 days
This tactic is a little tricky, but if done well can have a multiplier effect for both donor relationships and dollars. Use Facebook’s automated targeting to reach donors with upcoming birthdays in the next 2 months with a “Happy Birthday” themed ad. Send them birthday wishes and thank them again for being a valued donor to your organization. Take it one step further and invite them to create a Facebook birthday fundraiser on your organization’s behalf to further amplify their impact for your cause.
5. Paid Ad or Email – Campaign-Specific CTA
Timing: During a fundraising campaign or awareness month
This is another donor retargeting tactic that lets you thank your donors one more time while also encouraging them to continue to support your cause during a critical campaign moment. Retarget your current donors through paid advertising, or send them an email if budgets are tight but click-through-rates are high. Lead with a thank you message, and inspire them to commit more to your cause with a timely campaign moment or ask.
6. Paid Ad or Email: “Remember Me”
Timing: Before end-of-year appeal
Another retargeting tactic that can help you nurture your donor relationships while reminding them that you exist ahead of end of year giving or a major appeal. We all know attention is fleeting, and it can be difficult to keep and hold your donor’s attention in an ever-changing world. Retarget your donors in the weeks before a major appeal ask with a simple message: “Thank you for your support. Here’s how we’re having an impact today.” Pull out the big guns to share your most inspiring story of impact. This can be a good way to remind your donors why they supported you in the first place and help them keep you top-of-mind when year-end appeals roll around. Or who knows, maybe you’ll inspire them to donate even without making the ask. For this one to work, it’s important to deliver this message without asking for more — just show the gratitude that you have for your donor’s existing support.
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7. Email: End-of Year Appeal
This is your moment to really drive home the impact of your donor’s gift and reiterate how thankful you are for their contributions. A simple “Look at what your gift did this year. Thank you.” can do the trick. Thank the donor again with a short narrative, ideally with stories and examples, showing what the organization did throughout the last year thanks to their gift. Highlight the multiplier effect their gift has had when combined with the support of so many others like them. Offer a way for them to help contribute to an end-of-year giving goal to further their impact into the future
8. Email: Giving Anniversary
Timing: 1 year after initial gift date
On the one year anniversary of their gift, there’s an opportunity to remind you donors of their commitment to your cause with a “Giving Anniversary” message. Be sensitive with this messaging as their gift date may actually be a very personally significant day in their lives, such as the passing of a loved one or the anniversary of a recovery or treatment. Either way, use this opportunity to show your donors that you’re thinking about them, that you appreciate them, and underscore the value of the important work that you’re doing together.
All of these tactics are a great way to start developing relationships with your donors and showing your gratitude by thanking them four or more times throughout the year. Below is a list of some other fun donor thank-you ideas to take you even further. Good luck, and thank YOU for reading and supporting our content!
Bonus “Thank You” Ideas
Donor Only Video
Super-size end-of-year messaging with a video from your stakeholders saying thank you that is private and only shared with donors. The Nature Conservancy creates these kinds of amazing videos with clips from their staff working in the field. What’s great is that what these videos might lack in polish actually lends to their heartfelt credibility.
These videos can be hosted on any platform, but will mean more if it seems like they were private and only meant for people that had contributed to the organization.
Customized ZOOM Background
Create a ZOOM meeting background with your organization meant for donors. These can be sent in a donor “thank you” email as a link.
Send a (Real) Letter
Nonprofit employees are way too busy to be writing handwritten letters to donors — however, if you have the addresses of donors, there is another option. Enlist the help of trusted volunteers to adopt donors and send them notes of thanks including why they care about the organization. DonorsChoose is the most famous for sending these heartfelt letters from the children helped by donor gifts. There are also major political organizers, like Vote Forward, that are relying on individual volunteers to print, customize and mail letters to voters across the country. Explore more ideas and examples for thank you letters.
Create a mini podcast episode just for donors that talks about the inside story of the work their gift is helping support. This can be a CEO-led conversation, or just quick recorded statements from staff. This audio file can be sent in an email, or it can be hosted on SoundCloud and embedded on a web page that donors are sent to.
This idea is a tough one to scale, but it could be done efficiently with a talented video editor. Create short video message of thanks and then use a tool like Idomoo to dynamically insert your donor’s name. You can then send that message directly to the donor, making them feel like the video was made just for them.