As an individual giving officer, it often feels like all I do is send out letters; ask letters, thank you letters, follow up letters and even more thank you letters. Working in a small, specialist charity that very few people have even heard of means our donor relationships have to be exceptional. Thank you letters really do make all the difference and a recent example explains how attention to detail can bring fruitful results and really benefit your charity’s image.
The small non-profit I work for have never before had the resources or the time to really pay attention to their donors properly. Fortunately, a need for better relationships was identified and my employment was the outcome. One of my main aims is to vastly improve donor relations and increase income from individuals. As many of you know, relationships take time (all relationships, not just fundraising ones!). For example, you cannot ask a girl to marry you after taking her out for one drink! You have to ask her if she had a nice time and maybe go to dinner, then the cinema, then a holiday, then you have a relationship, which still needs constant work and nurturing before you’re ready to pop the big question!
It is much the same in fundraising. You can’t meet someone and immediately go in for a major gift. You have to get to know them, find out why they got involved in the organisation in the first place, let them know that their contribution is valued and then you have a relationship where it might be appropriate to ask them for more significant gifts.
Early on, I managed my CEOs expectations and let her know this would be a slow journey. I started by making sure all donors were thanked within a week of a donation being received. I then started phoning donors giving larger sums and then I started looking at donors who have been loyal supporters for a number of years, giving regularly, without being thanked! These donors, I thought, needed special acknowledgement. After a bit of deliberation, I decided to hand write 80 thank you letters to our regular donors. A challenge? Yes! Time consuming? Yes! Worth it? YES!
I thanked them and I thanked them properly for the first time since, I suspect, their standing orders had begun! I made sure each was entirely hand-written (luckily my writing is neat!) and I included a sum of their total gifts to date, detailing what a difference this money had made. It took nearly two weeks but I truly believe it was a worthwhile exercise and just a week after they had all been sent, I received a beautiful letter in return;
“It was a rare delight these days to receive such a beautifully handwritten letter. How do you manage it, without a single correction? Anyway, it has induced me to increase our monthly contribution.”
I was truly delighted to receive this reply, which also told me of the sad passing of their son who had been the reason they gave to us in the first place. I made a real connection with this donor and they had appreciated the effort and personal touch. Later that month, I discovered that not only had they increased their monthly gift, but they had actually doubled it! A fantastic outcome! Of course, they received another hand written thank you letter detailing our gratitude.
This method of thanking, not only increased income to our charity, but also greatly improved our relationship with a number of donors, which in turn, improved our public image. Donor relationships are the key to good fundraising long-term. After all, people give to people!
What are your experiences with thank you letters? Do you think they are worth the time and energy? I’d be delighted to chat with anyone on this subject and swap ideas and methods so please do get in touch!