Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Thanks: Do's & Don'ts

"Ask them, thank them; ask them again, thank them again." That in a nutshell is the essence of fundraising - and of building sustaining relationships with donors. The thanking part is equally important yet frequently given short shrift. Here are some important tips about how to do it right:

  • Thank everyone. No matter what the size of the donation - every dollar counts, every door counts. Small donors may become steady supporters, increasing their contributions incrementally over time. They may even surprise you with a really significant donation (or bequest) after they have gotten to know your organization and its work.
  • Thank your donor promptly. I cannot stress this enough - make it standard practice to respond with a thank you letter (hand-addressed and sent via first class mail) within a week of receiving every donation. Not only is this simply courtesy; nonprofits that thank their donors promptly are more likely to meet their fundraising goals.
  • Use the correct language. Include a date, the amount of the donation, language that indicates the gift is tax-deductible as allowed under tax codes, and this disclaimer: "we received a gift in cash, for which there were no goods or services provided in consideration, in whole or in part, or for which the goods and services provided were of insubstantial value."
  • Add a personal touch. Include a handwritten note of thanks. For major gifts, make a phone call to thank them personally. Invite them to become more involved as volunteers. All of these small gestures will help strengthen your relationships with donors.
  • Make sure your information is correct. Is the gift amount right? Are the names spelled accurately? If the donor has asked to be anonymous, have you noted that in your letter? Especially for letters to top donors, it's a good idea to have someone else proofread.
  • Continue to thank and communicate with your donors throughout the year. Use email, newsletters, letters, postcards, published donor lists, a thank you phone-a-thon, an annual donor appreciation event, and outreach to encourage donor participation and feedback.
  • Use the wrong salutation. Is it Jim and Jan, or Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Do your homework and make sure to get it right.
  • Treat stock gifts like cash gifts. So many organizations simply indicate the cash value of the stock, but this is not what the IRS requires from a donor. You need to state the date of transfer, amount of stock, and exact name of the stock.
  • Bother with perks for ongoing donors. My experience (and every study I've seen) shows that perks are useful for drawing in new donors, but they are not a motivator for people who are already connected and contributing.
  • Send a form letter to a major donor. Donors who make significant, thoughtful gifts expect and deserve a respectful and thoughtful personal thank you letter.
  • Forget to thank your Board: Your Board members are a key part of your fundraising team (and hopefully all donors as well). Know that even the smallest gesture of appreciation will make them feel appreciated, foster greater collaboration, and encourage ongoing financial and fundraising support.
Saying thanks is both common courtesy and good business. Be sure to do it right.