Fundraising Essentials: How to thank donors

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A genuine and well thought out method of thanks is one of the most important tools of any organisation’s arsenal. We all remember people who go the extra mile to make us feel appreciated and this is only more pronounced when dealing with funders of any type.

When an individual or organisation makes a contribution to your cause it comes at a price to the donor. Not just the support itself but the opportunity cost of using the funds elsewhere. Whether it is a giant multilateral donor or someone you have met for the first time at an event, they have chosen to support your cause instead of something else. A big funder will have selected your NGO over another a worthwhile organisation whilst an individual may have forgone the opportunity to buy lunch that day. When people sacrifice themselves and others in support of your work it is vital that you can demonstrate your appreciation and understanding of their gift.

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It is a well established fundraising fact that it costs far less resources to maintain and develop existing donors for repeat gifts than it is to continually recruit new supporters. In fact, many leading organisations target at least 80% of funding from existing donors and just 20% from new ones.

The past twenty years has seen huge growth in the sheer number of NGOs and similar development organisations in the world. Simultaneously there has been a dramatic upswing in the professionalisation of the fundraising industry. These changes have been brought into sharp focus in the past few years as the worldwide financial crisis has damaged the size and volume of donations  in every corner of the world. Consequently, it is more important than ever before to invest in your organisation’s tools for thanking financial supporters and stand out from the bustling crowd.

So, how can you thank donors in a powerful and cost effective way? We’ve spoken to donors from around the world to assemble our top tips for thanking your organisation’s financial supporters.

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Consequently,  it is more important than ever to think long and hard about the best ways to thank, retain and develop your organisation’s financial supporters.

  • Act fast: Thank your donor at the first available opportunity using the most personable means at your disposal. If you can either thank them in person or pick up the phone to show your appreciation.
  • Get the basics right: Some donors, especially international funders, expect certain reports and other kinds of information to be filed at the moment of funding as well as throughout the funding period. These organisation’s require this information to examine and justify their support for you cause, make sure you fulfil your obligations and make their job easier at the same time. Even individual donors should be updated on what difference their money has been made wherever possible.
  • Make it tangible: Help your donor to understand how their money is being used and the real life difference it will make. Share some brief information on exactly what their money will be used for and how it will change lives to make a great impression on your supporter. This demonstrates that your organisation is open, accountable and transparent, a few of the most important values that long term donors look for in an organisation.
  • Images: In today’s digital world it has never been easier or quicker to take a quick snap and email it to your donor with a simple message of thanks. A picture of your project in action is one of the best ways of demonstrating your appreciation. The old adage of a picture speaks a thousand words stands true and provides a great sharable record of your donors contribution to your work.
  • Connect online: There are hundreds of millions of individuals and organisations online and using social media, probably your donor too. Thanking them using tools such as Facebook and Twitter is a great quick and modern way of sharing of a public declaration of your organisation’s thanks for someones support.
  • Updates: Keep your owner informed of your progress, particularly in the area of work they have contributed. If they can get an understanding of the value of their financial support and most importantly the difference it has made the more likely they are to invest in your cause again.
  • Personalise: Make every thank you personal. Try not to send standard letters and definitely don’t send the same letter again at a later date. Just a few words that remind the donor that you recognise them as an individual and value their support can help you to stay in their minds for the next time they are looking to make a donation.
  • Involve beneficiaries: For organisations that work with people, your beneficiaries are the most powerful example of donations in action. Capture their experience with quotes and pictures that you can share with your donors. Even better is to record a short message of thanks from the people you work with directly in the form of a letter or video.

How do you thank your donors? What strategies does your organisation use to retain donors? Support the FundsforNGOs community by getting involved in the comments.

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