Do you have a system for expressing gratitude? For telling your nonprofit’s donors how grateful you are for their support?

In my weekly coaching email, Fundraising Kick, we’ve been looking at systems we use in fundraising. Using a system allows you to make a decision one time, rather than needing to make decisions with each and every donation that comes to your organization.

One of the most important systems is how you thank donors. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the easiest systems to ignore. After all, no donor is going to pound on your door saying, “Where is my thank you?!”

They’ll just move on to another nonprofit that does appreciate their giving.

A System for Thanking – Expressing a spirit of gratitude

If your organization relies in any part on donations from other people, you should share your gratitude with them. You couldn’t do what you do without their support. So thank them!

As basic as that is, I know organizations that look at each gift and wonder if they should thank that person. They ask questions like: “Is this gift large enough to warrant a thank you?” “Are we wasting our money mailing a thank you to them?” “Who is the right person to be thanking?”

Every single time they get a gift. Don’t be that organization. Do the hard work of creating a system about who gets thanked and by whom. Know what level gifts get what kind of personalization. Which levels get notes. Which levels get calls.

I happen to believe that every gift should get a thank you. No matter how small it seems to the nonprofit. I remember once getting three $1 bills at the hospital foundation I ran. Those three dollars were not a huge part of our overall fundraising. But they were a huge gift to the 8-year old child who give them.

We never know who is stretching to support us. So take the risk: thank every one.

And when I say “thank you,” I mean in addition to the gift acknowledgement. The gift acknowledgement is sort of a “Yep, the credit card processed” or “Yep, we received your check.” That is an important communication. But I believe a thank you should be sent separately.

A Simple System for Thanking

What systems you’ll set up are up to you. But sometimes it helps to see what others have done. Here’s part of a gratitude system I helped one of my private coaching clients create:

  • Donors will be sent a gift acknowledgement letter or receipt. While a $25 donation level cut-off was discussed, we agreed that any gift sent to the Clinic would be acknowledged.
  • Levels of Stewardship
    • Gifts of $25 – quick note of thanks by the development director
    • Gifts of $100 – thank you call by the development director
    • Gifts of $500 – note of thanks from executive director
    • Gifts of $1000 – note of thanks from the board chair
    • Gifts of $5000
      1. written invitation to visit on the day sponsored
      2. thank you call by the board chair
    • Gifts of $25,000 – (full week of surgery) treated on a case-by-case basis

You can see that this client, a small spay and neuter animal clinic, tied gift levels “day” and “week” sponsorships. You may find it helpful to break down gift levels in more tangible ways like they did. But you don’t need to.

The real take away is that they made the decision about who was responsible for thanking beyond the gift acknowledgement. Rather than wondering “Who should reach out” with each gift, they could now just run a list each week or each month.

Systems Save Time

Do you see what peace of mind comes from doing the hard work of making these decisions one time? Now they can get on with the business of thanking their donors!

What systems do you have for showing your donors gratitude?

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