What happens at your non-profit when a donation comes in? At most non-profits, a thank you letter is generated and an entry is made in the donor database, and that’s it… the team returns to soliciting more donations.
But… most non-profits are missing a crucial step. Did you know that one of the best ways to keep donors giving year after year is to call them to thank them immediately after you receive their gifts?
Why Donor Thank You Calls Matter
At some non-profits (but not all), when a major gift arrives, the donor receives a thank you call from the fundraising team or the Executive Director. But many organizations figure they don’t need to make calls to major givers after the gift, because they just had a conversation to solicit the gift… and they don’t want to overwhelm the donor. And most non-profits never call lower-dollar donors to thank them for their gifts.
Those could be costly mistakes.
In her research into donor stewardship and retention, Penelope Burk, author of Donor Centered Fundraising, found that a phone call from a board member or senior employee at a non-profit, within 48 hours of receiving a gift, resulted in donors giving an average of 39% more over the course of their lifetime to the organization.
Think about that. Your non-profit could raise 39% more than it does today, without making any additional asks… just by promptly calling each of your donors after their gift comes in to say, “thank you.”
Why Are Donor Thank You Calls So Effective?
In my experience, there are a number of reasons why thank you calls are so effective in increasing donor engagement and lifetime donor value:
They confirm receipt of a donation.
First, a prompt donor thank you call confirms to the donor that his or her gift was received by the organization. This provides instant gratification. Instead of waiting around for weeks to get a written thank you letter, the donor knows that the gift (made through the mail or online) was safely received by the non-profit.
They put a human touch on the relationship.
Secondly, thank you calls are much more personal than thank you letters. If I mail a donation into your non-profit, and receive a thank you letter in the mail, it’s all very impersonal… in fact, it may seem as though you simply personalize and print out a form letter and send it to me automatically. Calls, on the other hand, put a human touch on the relationship that helps to grow the bond between you and your donor.
They provide an additional donor touch point.
Donor thank you calls also provide a good excuse for you to speak to your donor in person… in other words, they are an easy donor touch point for your non-profit. Donor thank you calls are low pressure, relaxed ways to build more personal interaction between your donors and your fundraising team.
They show heartfelt gratitude.
Getting a personal call from a board member or other senior team member from your organization makes donors feel like they are important to your non-profit. Calls show heartfelt gratitude, and give donors the sense that they matter. If I make a small gift to your non-profit and get a thank you call in return, I know that my donation makes a difference.
How to Build a Thank You Call System for Your Non-Profit
The goal for your organization’s donor thank you call system should be to call as many donors as possible within 48 hours of receiving their gift. This includes gifts of all sizes, made through every medium (the mail, online, etc.)
Depending on the size of your organization, you may not be able to personally acknowledge every gift. That’s ok – but do your best to work towards a goal of call 100% of donors. If you can’t call every donor, set a cut-off for which donors will receive calls, with larger donors getting priority (e.g. you may decide to call every donor who makes a gift in excess of $100).
Put together a thank you call team consisting of board members, your CEO or Executive Director, your Development Director, and, if necessary, other senior team members. Train your call team on how to make thank you calls, and let them know how many calls they should expect to be making each week.
Don’t send out thank you call requests to the entire call team. Instead, assign each call to a different team member. Your development staff should be able to e-mail a donor’s name, phone number, and gift amount to a call team member and know that the call will be made within the next 24-48 hours.
Thank you calls don’t need to be long. The best thank you calls are short and to the point:
“Desmond, this is Cara Delaney, a board member from the Joshua House Soup Kitchen. I’m calling to thank you for your generous gift of $500 to our organization. I just wanted you to know that we really appreciate your support!’
That’s it! The key is that the donor received a call, not that it was a long conversation. Sure, some donors may want to chat, but many will simply say, “I’m glad we could help.” You can sign-off with a simple, “Take care, I hope to meet you in person at one of our events soon!” And remember – never solicit another gift during a thank you call!
Remember that thank you calls don’t replace thank you letters. Thank you calls should be made within 24-48 hours of receiving a gift, and you should then follow up with a thank you letter within the next 7-10 days.
Donor thank you calls are an absolute necessity for non-profit fundraising. They’re a quick and relatively painless way to increase your revenue by 30% or more. Is your organization ready to institute a thank you call system this year?
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