Show your donors some love

Love. It's one of the most frequently used words in song titles and I bet you can name many. One of my favourites is the 1984 Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, “The Power of Love”. It bagged the band a number one and was also used in the 2012 John Lewis Christmas advert (the one with the snowman).

The power of love – the message is one all of us should be taking notice of. And, for charities, it’s got even greater meaning.

For instance, the word philanthropy literally means “love of mankind”. We all know that people give to charity for a variety of reasons, but often emotional reasons trump rational ones. Heart over head. And charities know that if you fail to make an emotional connection through your campaigns you’re not going to gain and keep donors.

It’s always about the donor. The more you can align your approach with your donor’s identity and personal search for satisfaction and purpose, the better chance you have of securing a gift.

And when you do get that gift it’s so important that you show some love back. The most important thing you’ll ever do for your donors is say thank you.

Just about every charity leader or fundraiser knows the importance of thanking donors—not just as an expression of gratitude and good manners, but as a way of building relationships. When done well, recognition can even encourage future gifts and continued involvement, whether through volunteering or being a champion for the organisation. It also helps encourage gifts from other networks. When people see their friends and family members are passionate about a cause, they might consider supporting as well.

When it comes to giving thanks, if you’re a small or medium-size organisation you may not have the resources or opportunities for lavish gifts or swanky appreciation events. However, with a little creativity, you can acknowledge donors without an increase in staff time or expenditure. The old adage “less is more” can hold true.

For a truly meaningful thank you, there are a few things you need to know about the person you’re thanking:

  • the campaign(s) they donated to
  • how much they donated and how frequently
  • how they donated (credit card, voucher, direct debit etc)
  • where the donation came from (eg online, mobile, Facebook, voucher).

And most importantly:

  • your donor’s details (if the donor hasn’t chosen to remain anonymous) ­– including their name, email address, postal address.

You’ll also need to have information on how your donors would like to be contacted. In these post-GDPR times it’s imperative that you do what they ask (see our top tips for staying compliant with GDPR).

With this information in hand you can start thinking about how you want to thank them. Here are three ways you could do this:

1 Send all your donors a thank you email

If a lot of your donors have said they’d like to be contacted by email this is a perfect opportunity to say thank you. When you write them an email keep in mind these four things your thank you email should do:

  • Be personal, eg:

    Dear Sandra [use their first name], Thanks to you, more homeless people within our community [include the name of the community you share with the donor] now have a warm place to sleep and food in their bellies [acknowledge how their gift made an impact!].

  • Make it about them, eg:

    Your donation of £50 [acknowledge their specific gift] means that you understand just how important a warm shelter and healthy food is for people who have nowhere to call home. Thanks to you [make it about them again], more people are feeling safer this Christmas.  We couldn’t help them without you, so thanks for being so wonderful. [give them a quick compliment!].

  • Let them see the impact

    Show your donors the impact of their donations by sharing high-quality images of projects, people or animals that your donors help to support within your thank you emails. There are some great examples here.

  • Send it from a person

    A warm, personalised thank you shouldn’t only have the donor’s name. Each message should be signed with a staff member’s name and contact information. Most people won’t feel the need to respond, but a thank you from a named individual is more meaningful than a thank you from a generic signoff such as ‘the team’.

2 Send your donors a hand written note

With information on your donors you’ll be able to find out who your most generous and/or frequent supporters are. Then do what Marie Curie regularly do on Giving Tuesday  –  send those people a handwritten thank you note.

It’s the perfect way to say thank you in a personal way. The Christmas period is also a great time to do this as you can write your note in a Christmas card and send season’s greetings at the same time.

3 Invite your donors to see your work in action

Depending on the nature of your work you could offer your most frequent donors the opportunity to connect physically with your charity and to see the work behind the cause. By giving them experiences like volunteer opportunities, tours of your facilities, and small group meetings with your staff and other donors, you are cementing the relationship you have with them. Keep your donors excited about your work by letting them touch and see the good you are doing, that they are funding.

These are just few ideas that you could do with the help of information on your donors. Taking care of your donors is the key to successful fundraising so do what Frankie Says and harness the power of love.