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Let's go back to basics and thank better in fundraising
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I recently attended the International Fundraising Conference. It was great to meet passionate fundraisers, who had some interesting ideas to improve the performance of worldwide fundraising. Even though the presentations and debates covered a wide range of subjects, there were a couple of themes that ran across the sessions.

One that particularly connected with me was a real back to basics point. Giving by a donor is an exchange. You want to be thanked.

So my point is simple: Let’s thank better, by making it as innovative and as important as the initial appeal.
Now I’m not dismissing any of the effort, or cutting-edge thinking that needs to go into our appeals. What’s clear is the ‘donor need’ to balance the appeal and the thank you.

When you think about it, it’s a basic human action to acknowledge an act and make sure it’s appreciated. I’m still thinking about when my 17 month old said “Fanks” for the first time. (At least I hope this is what she was trying to say!) So why don’t we all try and bring some of this feel good factor to our thank yous?

All too often thanking can be a token effort at the end of the campaign
OK, hands up, in the past I’ve been involved in writing generic thank you templates that a charity uses for their whole annual programme. I was young and naive!

The letter looked a little like this:

I suspect whilst this letter reassured the donor that their money had reached the charity, it did little to engage the supporter. So why don’t we set ourselves the challenge that every campaign we do has an innovative thank you?

Have a look at this, courtesy of Beate Sørum. This little boy, Mackenzie, gave up his birthday money for ‘Charity Water’ via a Facebook campaign...

… and this was Charity Water’s response (I bet you Mackenzie is now a supporter for life).


Now, I challenge you not to have had a little tingle on your neck when you saw the charity’s response.

Of course we can’t personalise a thank you video for each campaign (or can we?!) But there are ways we can make the thank you so powerful that a donor feels more engaged; a stakeholder, not a cheque-writer:

  • Timely thanks – set up a process to ensure donors are thanked on a daily basis.
  • Thank by moving the appeal story on – link as much as you can to the original appeal – a case study, appeal deadlines, the beneficiary of the donation, and a message from the field could all be used.
  • Make it personalised – this is where having detailed information about your donor is key. Do you know if they’re a parent, their age, their favorite area of your work? If so, use this in the thank you.
  • Make it shareable – for example videos, or insight from the field.
  • Use a channel mix – online and offline.
  • Don’t make it generic – freshen it up each time.

Innovative thank yous will recruit you more supporters
A recent study (thanks Beate) has shown that 40% of sharing through Facebook happened pre-purchase, but 60% happened on the order confirmation, post purchase. So it’s logical that the purchase equivalent in fundraising - the donation - backed up with a strong thank you, will encourage more donors to share. This will help recruit their friends to your cause.

A thanked donor will be more connected with you and enjoy giving more donations
There is a long-term benefit to more innovative thank yous.

Key to the donor journey, of which thanking is an incredibly important part, is moving a donor from low to high commitment. For every 1,000 donors that move to high commitment, expect $200,000 in increased value (thanks to Diana Ruano at Daryl Upsall Consulting International for that reference).

So, next campaign, split your time between the appeal and an innovative, feel-good, personalised thank you
The benefits of this will be enormous:

  • It will deliver the basic ‘donor need’ to make their donation feel like an exchange.
  • It will recruit you more supporters because your existing supporters will share the experience post-donation.
  • An innovatively thanked donor will be more committed and worth more to your charity.
  • Last and most importantly… it’s the right thing to do!

What do you think? Are you already seeing the benefit of innovative, engaging thank yous. Or do you have room to improve?