In business, it’s a well-known and accepted fact that it’s a heckuva lot more expensive to get a new customer than to retain an existing customer. Ditto donors.
And the best way to retain a donor and have him or her give to you again…and again…and again is to thank them, thank well, and thank them often.
For more on this subject, Kevin Gentry brings you to some excellent suggestions from some of the top fundraising professionals in movement conservatism today.
Until next time. Onward and rightward…
Dr. Chuck Muth, PsD
Professor of Psephology (homeschooled)
“How to Get More Votes, More Donors & More Volunteers”
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Some Examples of Great Ways to Thank Your Donors
By Kevin Gentry
To finish up this week, I’ll offer a few of the emails I received from you and your cohorts about successful thank-you programs. There were a number of really good suggestions here, I thought —
• David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research:
On thank you notes, a quick comment. Many thank you letters seem to be written for the masses: they seem highly scripted and robotic and often include a lot of filler, either including sentences that sound good but convey no new information or repeat the pitch that was in the original appeal.
Some things that I’ve found useful…
1. Pick a person, maybe a family member or a good friend, to thank when you’re drafting your thank you letter. If your thank you letter seems too stiff for somebody you know well, it will be too stiff for your donors, too
2. Don’t write any more than it takes to convey your message. Meaningless sentences, in my view, exude insincerity
3. Include a new example of success, one the donor hasn’t hear about (in lieu of meaningless filler) to reinforce in the donors’ minds that the donation was the right thing to do
4. Use words that suggest the donor is the only person to whom you’re writing. In #3, for example, you might say something like: “I just heard about another great success that I couldn’t wait to share with you…” as opposed to “We recently learned that…”
5. Keep track of all communications with your higher dollar donors so that you can reference a note they sent, a comment to you they made on the phone, a recent visit, etc. that you can include in a handwritten P.S.
Another thing for both thank you letters and letters in general: Focus on the positive and exude optimism. If you’re not enthused and optimistic about what you do, if you think all hope is lost, why would a donor want to contribute rather than throwing in the towel?
• Joy Barresi, a colleague of mine who started “The Freedom 5k” race while she was part of the Koch Associate Program
One thing that we did after the Freedom 5K that seemed to work well was to combine our thank-you gift with a request for feedback on our performance at the event. We visited with our top sponsors individually, thanked them for their support, gave them a shirt from the race, and asked them what we could do to make the event more valuable to them in the future.
The results of each of these in-person visits were astounding. Our sponsors gave us great tips on how to improve and offered advice/suggestions that we never would have thought of ourselves. During one of the visits, when we asked what we could do to improve, our sponsor responded: “Keep doing this!” (referring to the feedback session).
• Abhi Samuel of the Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania
We thank every donor. We’ve also saw fit to ask for their feedback when calling to thank, and making a note of what other information they’d like, or if they’re part of an activist group that we can serve better. The direct outcomes range from appreciation for calls, names of friends we should contact, new relationships with other staff that don’t get to speak with donors, and knowledge of their giving preferences and goals.
• John Von Kannon of the Heritage Foundation
1. Just yesterday a local donor called to cancel our annual lunch which had been scheduled for today. He has given $10,000 a year since 1982. (Yes, we have asked for increases!) I asked if I could send him a letter requesting a gift this year. He said, “No, just thank me when it arrives.”
2. We distribute a list of all gifts and pledges above a certain amount to our Board of Trustees at each of its three annual meetings. Soon after each meeting the chairman of the board development committee sends each of those donors a letter thanking them. The donors had already received a letter from our board chairman, our president and the person who solicited the gift. Not only is this part of our thank you program, it is also an effective way to add urgency to our major gift solicitations in advance of the meetings. It gives both us and the donors we are soliciting a deadline: “If you can make this commitment by December 7, we can announce it to our board which meets that day.”
Finally, you might recall that last week I introduced the idea of the lagniappe, or little gift, as a means of utilizing both gratitude and reciprocity. You might get a kick out of this message I received in response – it’s from a work colleague, Philip Ellender, who is from Bourg, Louisiana – in the Cajun portion of South Louisiana.
Finally I can add some real value —- lagniappe means “a little something extra. The largest festival in South Louisiana was “lagniappe on the bayou!” When you order a dozen oysters, they give you 13 … a lagniappe!
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.