Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Two Essential Words: Thank You

Have you thanked anyone this week? If not, it's about time you did. Expressing your appreciation for your staff, board members, volunteers, and donors is an essential element in building organizational capacity and sustaining relationships with the folks who support your work. Here are some basic guidelines:
  • Thank everyone: Yep - I mean everyone, including the donor who contributes a mere $10 and the volunteer who puts in an hour of time and the board member you can't stand and the staff person who is slacking. Do it not only because it's prudent practice - donors who receive prompt thank you letters give more, volunteers who are thanked are more likely to return for more hours, board members and staffers who are appreciated work harder. Do it because it's the right thing to do.
  • Thank promptly: When someone donates, your acknowledgement should be sent out immediately - no more than a week after receipt of the donation. If a donor has to call to check and see if you received a contribution, you have really blown it - and you run the risk of losing future donations.
  • Make it personal: It might sound downright old-fashioned, but an actual handwritten letter or postcard or a personal phone call beats a form letter (or even worse, a form email) any day. At the very least, be sure to add a handwritten note (it can be as simple as "thanks for your continuing support; it really makes a difference!"), especially to important longtime donors and volunteers.
  • Do it right: This may sound stupid, but make sure you send the appropriate letter with the correct salutation to the right address. Just last week I received a thank you letter for someone named Jane. I returned the letter to the nonprofit with a note, but not everyone is going to be so helpful. And make sure you have the correct language in your letters to donors. Here's what to include for cash donations: "This letter acknowledges receipt of 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." Note that if you did provide goods/services of value, you need to indicate how much they are worth and deduct that amount from the acknowledged charitable donation. For gifts of stock you need to include the number of shares, name of the stock, date the gift was received, and the value of the gift on that date.
  • Stay in touch: Don't make that thank you letter the last thing your donors or volunteers hear from you until they get your next year's solicitation letter. Be sure to put them on your email list for newsletters, send them invites to special events, call significant donors and volunteers to share important news, and plan fun annual volunteer and donor appreciation events.
By the way - thanks to all of you who continue reading these blog posts, sending me emails with feedback, and letting me know that my posts have helped you in your nonprofit work!