This blog post is not trying to click-bait you into thinking fundraising success will be super quick or easy. There isn’t any “miracle cure” to improve your fundraising. Success in fundraising ultimately comes down to solid strategy and consistent execution.
But it’s nearing the end of the year – the most important time of year for fundraising for nearly all nonprofits. And you have probably landed here because you are struggling with, or at least looking to maximize, this time of year for your organization.
So I am here to offer you one simple strategy that is sure to boost your year-end giving.
What is that strategy?
That’s right – simply being grateful can go a long way toward helping you meet your fundraising goals.
Why is gratitude so important?
Studies show that donors are more likely to give again when they feel acknowledged and appreciated for their gift. And retaining donors is key to fundraising success and sustainability, especially for the small nonprofit!
We’ve covered the why behind showing your gratitude. Let’s dive into the how.
This one is pretty straightforward. The simplest way to show your gratitude is to say thank you. This of course means prioritizing timely donation acknowledgements. But it can also mean saying “thank you” in a way that reflects your organization’s mission, vision, and goals.
There are myriad ways to surprise your donor and reflect your mission with your thank you. A few ideas:
Film a short video of your participants in action. Are you a youth-focused organization? Grab a group of kids together and have them yell “thanks” in their cutest voices. Or if you serve an older population, have them film a 15 – 30 second message explaining how your organization has improved their life. Whatever you do, use the video to surprise and engage your donors in a way they aren’t used to!
Ask staff or participants to write handwritten thank you notes. The more personalization you can use, the better.
Call them! Would you be surprised to know that one study found that donors that received a timely thank you call were 40% more likely to give again? Pick up that phone!
All these strategies can leave great, lasting impressions on donors. But only if they also use strategy number two….
No amount of thank you notes or videos, no matter how timely or well written, will wow a donor and make a positive impression of your organization if it doesn’t come across as authentic. The key to the authenticity of your thank you is how you tie your donor’s generosity to the impact it made possible.
So what does this mean for you? Make sure your thank you reflects their gift.
If they gave to a specific program, that program should be the highlight of your unexpected thank you.
If they gave for operations, let your staff tell them how much upgrades to IT have improved their work life, and equipped them to be more productive.
This connection between the gift and the thank you shows your donors you’re paying attention to them on an personal level. And that their gift, whatever the amount and purpose, has been important to your organization’s success.
People give to nonprofits to see positive change on an individual, human level. Even if your organization focuses on advocacy or policy change – people want to see how their gift bettered the lives of other people. And there is no better way to do that than to tell a story.
Highlighting a single story is a well known strategy for improving fundraising asks. But did you know it can also be the most impactful way to start off your acknowledgement letter?
How many times have you received an acknowledgement that starts with:
“Please allow me to express my sincere gratitude….”
“Thank you for your gift of $___ in support of _________”
Do you think this makes anyone feel good? Does it make anyone feel anything?
Instead, pull some of your dazzling storytelling copy into your acknowledgement letter. Use the first line to immerse the reader into your story, your impact, and your organization’s mission.
Looking for examples?
For a senior community center/meal program: They came for the meal. They stay for the friendships.
For a STEM education camp for girls: Staring at the model spaceship in awe, you could almost see Shirley’s mind spinning as her teacher talked. So much was possible, and she wanted to be a part of it…
For a rare disease research organization: “When we first got the diagnosis, I feared it was a death sentence. Thanks to ______, it was actually an open door to a new community and hope for a cure.”
After that first line, THEN thank the donor – for helping to make that story possible! This connects your donor to your cause with more emotion, engagement, and excitement than a tired form letter. Adding some variety and creativity to your donation acknowledgement shows the donor that they are as important to you after their gift as they were before.
A great way to recognize a long-term donor is to ask if they are willing to be a part of a donor spotlight. Set up a time to interview them and ask them about their experience as a donor of your organization. Some great questions to ask:
How did you first find out about us?
What about our mission makes you passionate about our cause?
What is your most significant memory of our organization?
What surprised you about our mission (or the issue we address) when you first learned about it?
How has your involvement with our organization changed your perspective, your life?
This gives the donor the opportunity to reflect on how giving to your organization has affected them personally. It also underscores for them how important they are to your work. A donor story is a great alternative to a client testimonial, and can compel others to support you, too.
Gratitude is a useful tool for nonprofits year round, but with Giving Tuesday fast approaching, it is all the more relevant right now. Giving Tuesday is a big deal – and only getting bigger. A recent Forbes article said 62% of Americans plan to take part in Giving Tuesday in one way or another this year.
But small nonprofits often don’t have the manpower to plan a Giving Tuesday campaign weeks or months in advance. When you’re a small (or solo) team, it can be enough just to get the year-end appeal out the door before December ends!
Rushing to implement a quick (and probably – let’s face it – sloppy!) Giving Tuesday campaign that is not only unattainable but not connected to your mission & goals does not sound fun (or effective). Instead, take a step back and consider focusing your plans on showing gratitude.
This may be my favorite tip of them all. Rather than highlighting your own success and asking for support on Giving Tuesday, consider highlighting successes of those you work with. Nonprofits rarely do everything completely on their own – we all rely on partners to help our programs run better, connect with potential participants, and make a greater impact overall. So if any of your nonprofit partners are going all in on Giving Tuesday, why not shine a light on them?
You can explain how integral they are to your mission and why (which, hint hint, shows how great you are without it feeling like a call for support!) and ask your audience to get to know the partner organization better by following them on social media or giving a donation.
Similarly, are there any local businesses that support your organization? Use your platform to share those businesses, how they support you, and ask your audience to consider supporting them throughout the holiday season (or year-round)!
With either option, you’ll strengthen your partnerships, you’ll impress your audience with your work, and you’ll be well positioned to make a strategic ask after the Giving Tuesday madness subsides!
Has this blog post helped you rethink gratitude and how you can use it creatively in your work?
I’d love to hear how! You can find me on Instagram where I love to chat about all things donor gratitude, Giving Tuesday, and more.
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