Gratitude is More Than Just Saying “Thanks!”

Last month my colleague Jennie Wolf Smith wrote about the importance of increasing retention from first-time donors. Author Tom Ahern just shared that the 2019 Fundraising Effectiveness Project reports that just 20% of first-time donors make a second gift to an organization.

One of the ways to address donor retention issues in your organization is to develop a comprehensive gratitude plan.

Gratitude is not just saying “thanks!” Gratitude actually has three important components:

  1. Thank you: the first step is to say thank you in a written letter. That letter should thank the donor, tell them what their gift will accomplish, and thank them again. It should ideally be mailed within 48 hours of your organization’s receiving the gift.
  2. The second component of gratitude is accountability/transparency. Throughout the year, make a point of using various channels (social media, newsletters, letters, etc.) to report to your donor about how their gift has made a positive difference in the lives of people your organization serves. Use specific stories to make your point. Use “you” and “your” to place the donor as the star of the story (your gift helped Janice receive car repairs which enables her to keep her job and make a better life for her family).
  3. Third, create a sense of community among your donors and celebrate with that community. When feasible, host “gratitude gatherings” at which your donors are celebrated and celebrate together around the successes toward meeting your mission. In this time of COVID19, be creative in bringing donors together. More than ever, a sense of community and belonging is crucial to encouraging donors to renew their gifts and upgrade their gifts.

As donors feel authentic appreciation for their generosity, as they receive specific information about what their gift accomplished, and as they feel a part of a larger community of donors, they are far more likely to make a second gift and become public advocates themselves for your mission.