As the President of Merkle Response Management Group, I lead the many facets of our business – from client satisfaction, product enhancements and new services, to sales presentations, business strategy, employee engagement and process improvement. No two days are ever alike. In my free time, I like to create things. I am a frustrated artist at heart who enjoys Plein Air landscape painting, and crafting furniture and home accessories from wood. I also enjoy working on my restored ’66 VW Bug.
I believe one of the most important things to learn early on in life is to say “thank you” for the good things that come our way. It’s no different in the business world, and even more important in the world of non-profit fundraising where prompt acknowledgements of donations can mean the difference between retaining a donor or losing them.
At Merkle, we offer a variety of ways for non-profit organizations to let donors know how much their gifts are appreciated. Here are our top five:
One – outbound thank you calls. A popular strategy is to make outbound thank you calls to donors for their recent donations. Either the non-profit itself makes these calls or we make them on their behalf through our Contact Management Center. We target the calls to particular giving efforts and/or amounts, making sure to thank the donor very specifically.
By doing this, we let donors know how important they are, strengthening the relationship between donor and non-profit. This, in turn, can lead to higher retention, higher gift amounts and more frequent giving.
Two – speed to acknowledge. We make sure to acknowledge donors as quickly as possible. We were one of the first companies to offer a daily acknowledgment program for non-profit organizations. Not acknowledging daily puts the donor at risk to receive another direct mail solicitation before being properly thanked for their previous gift. At Merkle, we acknowledge all donations within three days of receipt. Once a donation comes in, it’s typically processed and deposited the next day. The thank you letter is generated and sent out in the next day’s mail, and the donor receives it two to three days later.
Three – modify thank you letters based on donor aspects. If you tailor letters based on attributes of each donor – say the amount of the gift, or the specific campaign they donated to – the impact will be more meaningful. More meaningful interactions foster goodwill and increase a donor’s inclination to contribute in the future.
Four – include relevant information. Make sure to include relevant insert information that is of interest to the donor in the acknowledgement package. For example, if someone has responded to a specific disaster mailing, say the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, give him or her literature pertaining to other, similar natural disasters. By reflecting back to them that which they’ve respond to and have an affinity for, you build a personal connection to the organization and its cause. This is a great way to establish a relationship that can be nurtured and cultivated for the long term.
Five – use micro data. Every data point you gather about donors can be useful in thank you strategies. Even the envelope can yield valuable information. Usually, non-profits use prepaid reply envelops to make it easy for donors to give. Some donors will affix a stamp so the non-profit can get a credit from the post office. It may not seem like much, but the volume costs of a first-class stamp can be significant. Using their own stamps makes donors feel like they are doing an additional part to make a difference. Most people wouldn’t think to thank for something like this, but it demonstrates to the donor that you are keenly focused on the details of your interactions and it serves the further goal of strengthening the relationship between the donor and the non-profit.
This is also a great opportunity to capture data related to the fact that certain donors put additional time and effort into their gift. These individuals probably have a stronger affinity for the cause and knowing this might play a part in how you market to them. It also provides additional information for continued list refinement.
These are just some of the tried and true thank you strategies we’ve used. What are others that have worked for you?