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Begin the New Year by Saying Thank You.

January 20, 2017

At the beginning of each year, many of us wish our friends, family, and colleagues a Happy New Year, but have you ever thought about starting the new year by saying “Thank You?“ Think about the last time you got an unexpected gift, and how special that made you feel. An unexpected “Thank You” works the same way. It makes a person feel uniquely valued.

For nonprofits, a start-of-the-year thank you to donors, volunteers, and supporters can be a powerful and cost-effective way to say how much you appreciate their support, remind them of the worthwhile work your organization is doing, and how their contributions are making a difference in the community. By making donors and volunteers feel more valued and engaged, they will be more likely to give in the future, and will be more willing to go the extra mile to support your organization.

Stand Out From The Crowd – Personalize, Segment and Get Creative

A personalized thank you phone call or a handwritten note works best, especially when it is being sent by leaders of your organization. It immediately connects the leaders to the supporters and makes each and every donor and volunteer feel special, regardless of their donation amount. To help you engage with your contacts, LiveImpact has created a phone call thank you script that you can download and use for free.

For large organizations, it might be unrealistic to make phone calls or send handwritten notes to every donor or volunteer. In this case, you can segment your contact list to create groups of donors and volunteers with shared preferences – like causes that they donated or volunteered towards. Once you have segmented your list, create thank you messages for each program, and customize your message to include the following:

A Thoughtful Opening Line: Write a meaningful, creative opening line to show that you care. Pamela Grow’s thank you template has some interesting opening lines for your reference.
Think beyond. In today’s digital age many donors and volunteers don’t read long messages. How about doing short videos for different programs/causes. Doing a video message from your organization’s leader will show commitment to all your supporters. In lieu of a handwritten note, this is a good way to get your leaders to connect with your supporters.  See an example of a short thank you video message from Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Showcase impact of gifts received and volunteer efforts by program: Based on a recent research conducted on the state of philanthropy in Silicon Valley, and also the Millennial Impact Project, donors, especially millennials, are interested in knowing how their contributions are making an impact in the near term, versus how their donations are going to eliminate poverty or improve the human condition over the next several decades. With this shift in donor mindset, nonprofits of any size should take every opportunity to communicate program results.

Explain in your thank you message how gifts were utilized for the program, and how it has made a difference. Consider highlighting a short story about a beneficiary, or share a statistic that demonstrates to the donors that their contribution was used effectively. Millennial donors are not afraid of numbers. Show impact by including infographics and charts, after all pictures speak louder than words.

Explain how your organization will continue to support the program: It is important to keep the conversation going so that your donors and volunteers can continue to support their favorite causes, and know what to look forward to in the year. If you already have a calendar of events planned for a program include it in your email, so your donors and volunteers can plan ahead. With busy schedules, people will appreciate the advance notice.

Thanking donors is the stepping stone for your stewardship plan: An unexpected note of gratitude at the beginning of the year with a personalized message will show donors and volunteers that you pay attention to their gifts, their contributions of time and skill, and causes that interest them.
For all nonprofit organizations thanking donors and volunteers is a key aspect of the stewardship plan. If you haven’t already, an easy way to craft a first round stewardship plan is to simply list down all of your supporter audiences and write down ways that you will inform them of their impact, show your appreciation, and engage with them one on one.  Well thought out acknowledgements, and follow-ups go a long way to nurturing donors and volunteers into lifelong supporters.

Michelle is a LiveImpact consultant with 17+ years of experience in nonprofit management. Prior to consulting, she worked for a large public utility company as a Network Specialist. Michelle’s expertise includes nonprofit management, conference/event planning, software training and database design.

Vibha Gauba