Plan your thank you like you plan your ask.
As fundraising professionals, we all know that donors need a thank you when they make a gift. But what we don’t always spend enough time on is how to make that thank you special to the donor. At Kennari Consulting, we believe that your stewardship plan should be as carefully thought out as your solicitation strategy. Whether the donor gave $25 at your event, or made a three-year six figure gift, some careful planning can reinforce to the donor why they made the gift in the first place. And, it can ensure that they will continue their giving in future. Here are some basic ideas to consider as you craft your stewardship plan:
The Thank You Letter
All gifts should receive a thank you letter within 48 hours of making their gift. This means that if you are sending a large mailing or having a large event with an influx of gifts, you should be planning to block the time necessary to get your thank you letters out within 48 hours. The letter should include:
Recognition of the impact of the gift on what they gave to – connect it to the part of the mission within your appeal that inspired them to make the gift.
A signature from an appropriate person (CEO, Board Chair, Director, personal relationship).
Recognition information (if applicable).
Information about what they could do next for your organization (ie: Visit us online, watch a video testimonial, sign up for eNews, take a tour, volunteer, etc.)
There are some instances where an extra step can be some personal follow up, like a phone call or a visit. Here are some ideas for this touchpoint:
For first time donors, place a thank you call to talk with them about why they gave.
For event sponsors, send the program from the event or visit them and bring them the giveaway from the evening if they couldn’t attend.
For someone who just made the largest gift they have given, have the CEO or other leader call them and thank them personally.
Engage your program staff in thanking the donors, either with a handwritten note or thank you call.
Send pictures or videos.
Use handwritten notes for donors at a certain level.
Invite capital donors to take a hard-hat tour of the space or see project plans.
Engage the volunteer who helped you get this gift in the thank you process.
Thank your monthly donors separately, instead of just sending everyone the same tax receipt each month.
Do a donor survey to understand better how they want to interact with you.
Opportunities to See their Dollars at Work
Many organizations make great connections with their donors by inviting them to activities to see their dollars at work. This is one of the most impactful acknowledgements you can make. While you may not be able to engage all donors in these activities, you can identify certain activities for certain levels of donors. Some ideas could be:
Inviting small groups of people to interact with a program officer or visiting artist to your organization.
Inviting donors to a “graduation” ceremony for your constituents.
Engaging donors to view student led activities or presentations.
Inviting donors to volunteer with your organization.
As you navigate which components will make up your organization’s stewardship plan, remember, the goal is to make sure the donor feels valued and important. They want to feel special and they want to know they’ve made a difference. The best way to do this is to take the time to plan all of the ways you are going to say thank you, and also take the time to understand why the donor wants to be a part of your organization. And remember, the average first-time donor renews just 25% of the time. You can impact this number by being intentional about your stewardship. If you do a great job thanking, you will stand out, and donor will remember you and feel special. On the flip side, if you do a poor job thanking, you will stand out, but NOT the way you want to. Take the time to plan, and your donors might just thank YOU.
This blog was originally published in October 2019 by Mary Sumners, Vice President of Kennari Consulting, and has been updated.