We sometimes lose sight of the fact that it’s okay to talk to constituents without asking for money. There can be an assumption on the part of non-profits that each email is precious, so we should limit our emails to just the ask and nothing else. But it’s okay to just say “thanks” to your supporters, and this is the perfect time of year to do it.
Break the gimme habit.
Constituents might expect that every communication from a non-profit is a “gimme some money” message. Sending a “thanks” email shatters this thinking in the mind of your supporters. It’s no longer a one-way plea. It can become a two-way channel that opens a more personal relationship with a constituent. It also helps quash that perception they may have that you just want them for their money.
Thanks, that’s all.
There’s always the temptation while saying thanks to make the ask, no matter how subtle. But that’s not the purpose here. Constituents shouldn’t think the “thank you” is a cleverly-disguised plea. It should be the only reason you’re writing. Whether you met your goal or not this year, your constituents who gave deserve thanks.
What to say.
Shorter is better. Write a few simple paragraphs or even just one paragraph.
- Thank donors for their support, especially in these tough times.
- Thank volunteers and stakeholders for their help.
- Quickly review the year. Talk about the successes. If there were failures, turn them around to talk about a better next year.
- State some digestible stats. Talk about effectiveness: number of people your organization helped, as opposed to dollars raised.
- Wish them well for the holidays and the new year.
A photo in an email can pique curiosity. If you add a picture of a person or group your cause has helped this year, it can have a powerful emotional appeal. Smiles are always best in a “thanks” message, as they show gratitude. Keep your photo to a reasonable size in the email so it doesn’t interfere with the written message, but crop it tightly to be more intimate.
A photo is also a great way to keep the length of the text in your message to a minimum. The picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words maxim can reduce the need for talk, especially if the photo can tell most of the story.
Make it from the heart.
There’s a common “charity” language that many develop within an organization and it’s commonly used in all official communications. Step back for a minute and don’t start this “thank you” message like that. Address the single constituent as if they were a friend who just gave you an unbelievably great gift. (In reality, that’s what happened.) Keep it short, real and honest. The difference in tone will make your purpose of just thanking them more obvious.
Say thanks without using the word “thanks.”
The word “thanks” is overused and can have a stigma attached to it. DonorDrive’s Account Manager Andrea Frieder Heines suggests, “Try using words like appreciative and grateful. The word thanks is typically followed by for your support. We hope we can count on your support next year. When donors smell an ask they may not even get past the word thanks before they’re off to the next message.” Andrea spent many years managing charities before joining us at DonorDrive.
We might think of direct mail as being more personal, but often it’s not looked at that way. Mail today is usually either junk or bills. Unless you’re handwriting something, it might not get noticed. Sending a mass email from within your fundraising software or CRM may be free, so email is a cost-effective way to communicate, especially when sending a communication that’s not planned for in your budget.
Give special thanks to special people.
While email is a great way to contact everyone, it’s important that you identify your largest fundraisers and contributors for special recognition, like a phone call or handwritten note. According to Andrea, “A handwritten note is a very personal way to say thanks to people who have really made a difference. Hand addressing an envelope has become a rarity these days. It pretty much guarantees that your message will be opened and read.”
Facilitate the give.
While most charities are skilled at making the ask, some are lousy at facilitating the give. In other words, they’ve made it inconvenient to donate. That’s a real shame since online fundraising tools have made giving so convenient by credit card and PayPal. In your email, link to your site and make sure the portal for taking donations on your site is immediately obvious and not buried where the donor has to dig for it.
Top of mind at a very good time.
It’s the time of year when people are in a giving mood. Plus accountants are advising their clients to think about making a year-end donation as a tax write-off. Though you haven’t made an ask, you’ll be on their radar. This simple gesture may yield some surprise gifts this year or even later, since donors may be planning their giving for 2012.
For those using DonorDrive.
DonorDrive easily connects you by email and social media. All are free services with our software, so it won’t cost you anything extra to send that “thank you” email. Here are a few ideas:
- Send separate emails to donors and participants. DonorDrive Reports makes it easy to list them separately. This way you can properly thank them for either giving or actively participating.
- Search out donors and participants who donated or raised more than $1,000. These are the people who deserve special thanks. You can do this with DonorDrive’s reports feature. Also remember that DonorDrive’s powerful mail feature can make every email look personal with placeholder text and data from multiple fields.
- Address by first name only. “Dear Steve Brown,” immediately feels like a mass mailing. Try a simple “Steve,”.
- Use the Campaign Snapshot Tool to monitor success. You might send the emails out in batches so you can change subject lines or body content to compare effectiveness.