As a nonprofit organization, you should be sending messages of appreciation to your donors any time they make a gift. These messages could be in the form of thank-you letters, emails, phone calls, or even free merchandise. The goal is to show donors that your organization appreciates their contributions and demonstrate the positive impact of donations.
To make these messages as effective and meaningful as possible, align them with your donors’ preferences and infuse your expression of gratitude with personalized details. Avoid a boilerplate approach and include specific details like the donor’s name and gift amount to show that you know who they are and how they support your nonprofit. While taking a personal approach to every message used to feel impossible, new technology makes it so that you can accomplish this with just the click of a button.
You can even go beyond these basic details by using data analytics to dig deeper into information about your donors and what motivates them to give. GivingDNA’s guide to nonprofit data analytics defines this term as “the process of collecting data and analyzing it to uncover trends, patterns, and insights that will help guide fundraising strategies.”
Using data analytics, your nonprofit can adapt its thank-you messages and:
- Reach out through preferred communication channels.
- Deepen your understanding of donors.
- Monitor and improve donor retention rates.
Because thanking donors is so important, it’s imperative that your organization make informed decisions about how, when, and through which channels to send thank-you messages through. By relying on your data, you can make your efforts more effective and efficient—and, your messages will feel more personal and genuine to donors.
1. Reach out through preferred communication channels.
There is an easy action your nonprofit can take to make a strong first impression and show that you understand and respect donors’ preferences without saying anything at all. Simply send donors messages through the channels that they are already familiar with and interested in.
While you can make some guesses about which channel a donor might prefer based on demographic information like their age, these presumptions aren’t always accurate. For example, you may have Millennial donors who strongly prefer communications via direct mail or older donors who primarily engage on social media.
Instead, take a more foolproof approach by analyzing data to understand what your donors’ preferences are. Here are the basic steps to follow:
- Use a data analytics platform to compile, study, and visualize your donor data.
- Identify the donors who are highly likely to use a specific channel, and ensure their communications are directed through the channel they use most.
- Make note of any donors who are not likely to use certain channels. Remove them from any existing email, mailing, or phone call lists based on this preference.
- Check this data often and update your lists in response to new donors or changing preferences.
Reaching out through a donor’s desired platform can help boost retention rates, whether you’re sending a newsletter via email or setting up a meeting over coffee with a major donor. And while reaching them is the critical first step, you also need to make sure the contents of your message align with who donors are, why they give, and the size of their impact.
2. Deepen your understanding of donors.
Donor data is the key your organization needs to unlock deeper donor relationships that will yield powerful, long-term support. This information gives you more insights into donors’ philanthropic history to tell the story of why they are passionate about your cause.
Here are some of the pieces of information you can use to craft a personalized thank-you message:
- Giving behaviors: This data reveals how much donors give, when they typically make gifts, and the methods they use to contribute to your cause. To customize your thank-you message, you might say something like, “Thank you for generously supporting our annual fundraiser for the past seven years!” This response shows that you notice and value their dedication.
- Demographic data: This includes a donor’s age, gender, marital status, income, occupation, geographic location, and more. If you know a donor’s birthday is coming up, for instance, you could send them a special birthday message that thanks them for all of their support over the years. Or, you might reference their geographic location in a thank-you message after receiving a donation and promote an upcoming fundraising event near them.
- Psychographic data: Psychographic data gives you insight into donors’ lifestyles, interests, personality traits, and political or religious ideologies. Use these traits to draw conclusions about what other interests a donor may have. If you know a donor loves hiking and supports wildlife conservation efforts politically, focus on the environmental impact their gift made in your message.
Your nonprofit should use this data for more than just thank-you messages. You could reference wealth markers like discretionary income as well as the donor’s past philanthropic contributions to estimate their giving affinity and capacity. Then when you have upgrade conversations with the donor, you’ll have a better idea of what amount to request.
3. Monitor and improve donor retention rates.
Maintaining consistent communications with donors keeps them engaged in your mission and excited about the next opportunity to support your organization. Sometimes, a simple thank-you message is all it takes to inspire a second gift from a new supporter or reinvigorate a lapsed donor.
Take a proactive approach with your donor retention strategy by monitoring lapsed donors and sending them messages to inspire them to get involved with your cause again. This could mean sending a “just-because” thank-you message that references the times they supported you over the years and asks them to do something low-stakes, like read a recent blog post about your newest initiative.
According to Fundraising Letters’ guide to donor recognition, these strategies can also help you limit donor churn:
- Donor recognition walls
- Donor recognition plaques
- Free branded merchandise
- Invitations to events
Once you identify lapsed donors using your data analytics software, you can segment them by lapse risk. Adjust communications based on how long it has been since their last donation (e.g., one year versus two). Factor in other information you might have about them, such as the programs they supported in the past. Leverage all of these insights to create thank-you messages and other communications that are personalized to the donor and likely to make an impact on them.
When you understand how your donors want to be thanked and reach out through the proper channels, you’ll make a positive impression on them. And when you know what drives donors to engage with your cause, you can use that data to improve other areas like your marketing or prospecting efforts. To take advantage of the benefits of data without needing a full-time data analyst, choose software that compiles and organizes your data for you.