Recently I've seen some great examples on the web of nonprofits saying thank you with style. The highlights would have to include:
- Shannon Doolittle's post about a Designated Donor Appreciation Month
- A post on Pamela's Grantwriting Blog about a thank you from Emily's List
- And Operation Smile's wonderful Thank-a-Thon exhibited on SOFII
It's great to see charities getting it right like this. But sometimes even the big guns get it wrong. Every so often, even the ones we admire most.
I think it's probably fair to say that Charity:Water are held in high regard by the majority of fundraisers. Certainly, when it comes to online fundraising, they set the bar extremely high.
But what about the way they say 'Thank You'?
Getting it wrong . . .
I'm not talking about excellent video thank yous like this one - but the way Charity:Water say thank you to everyone else . . . ordinary everyday cash donors. People like us.
Well, this is what they sent me . . .
Charity:Water have developed a reputation for doing the important things very well. And with style. So how come they're sending out such a stock, unimaginative thank you to new donors?
One explanation is that they're treating saying 'thank you' as part of a process, a box that has to be ticked. Another is that they're putting a lot more effort into their acquisition marketing than their retention strategy.
Either is a big mistake.
Retention begins with saying thank you. It's not simply part of a process that has to be done. If you're serious about making your donors feel good about their decision to support you - and most of all, if you want them to give again - it's something you have to do well.
Treating it like a process is dangerous. Because it means you're not just paying lip service to the principle of gratitude, it means you're paying lip service to stewardship and retention too . . . and that, as many non-profits will testify, is a very costly game to play.
Getting it right . . .
When it comes to saying thank you, whether by post, e-mail, video or or phone, bear these three tips in mind . . . you have to:
- Make it different - not stock
- Make the donor the hero - not your organisation
- Make it from the heart - not a tick-box sheet
And it dosesn't have to be innovative, or expensive, or grand.
To illustrate the point, here are two examples of how a simple, ordinary thank you letter can be done well:
The first is one I received from Starship Children's Hospital in New Zealand:
Dear Mr. Brown,
When people ask me what difference a donation can make, I reply that donations to Starship transform lives. Parents have told me with tears in their eyes what it means to know their child is receiving the best possible care at Starship.
And behind every one of these children there are compassionate people like you dedicated to helping. Thank you.
Your donation will help Starship support children and their families at their moment of greatest need. It is at these moments, when a child’s life can hang in the balance, that your donation becomes truly transformational.
I have seen how a seriously ill child can face incredible situations with a maturity well beyond their years. These children can exhibit an inspirational ability to carry on with a smile and an amazingly positive ‘live life’ attitude.
But a positive attitude alone isn’t enough to get through a life threatening medical challenge - your donation means New Zealand children have a world class facility to give them the best possible hope for a full and happy life. This is the kind of care I believe every child deserves.
They should be docked a point or two for not mentioning the amount I gave, but other than that, it's a pretty good thank you letter. It stands out above most I've received recently, and it certainly made me feel emotionally connected to the people my money was going to help.
The second is one of my own, written for CBM Ireland. And I'll let you be the judge:
Walking . . . the simple act of placing one foot in front of the other.
To you and I it seems so simple. But for a little child living with the agony of clubfoot, to walk without pain is beyond a dream.
Yet you've helped such a dream come true with your generous gift of €50 in response to my recent letter to you about little Sylvia. Thank you so much!
For Sylvia, every step of her life with clubfeet was agony, until a CBM supporter like you came to her aid. And now Joan, you have brought the same blessing to another child just like her. Your gift means a child like Sylvia will one day soon walk without feeling pain - go wherever the urge takes her - and run whenever she feels like running.
What a wonderful thing you have done.
On behalf of all of us here at CBM, I want to thank you deeply for your ceaseless kindness and generosity. Wonderful CBM supporters like you give me genuine hope for all our futures.
Yours, with my heartfelt thanks...
The important lesson to learn from all of this is that you don't have to be a large, pace-setting, multinational nonprofit to do gratitude well.
All you really need is a little know how and most of all . . . the right attitude towards your donors.
P.S. To pick up some great 'know how' check out Lisa Sargent's thank you letter clinic at SOFII!