Guest post by Dr. Steve Francis, originally posted on Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine

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As fundraisers, you all know how important it is to thank donors, but do you thank your donors in a personal way? It’s more than just auto-inserting their name at the top of a standard email. A real thank-you should be personal and not automated code, because let’s be honest, we can all spot that a mile away!

Here are a few extra ways to thank your favorite donors who probably deserve a bit more – plus they prove you’re not a bot.

Social shout-outs

A simple Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter tagged shout-out and thank you can be a great way to show your gratitude to donors both large and small. It lets them know you have received their gift, and it will make a difference in your mission. It also tells the social community that someone else values the work of your organization. This quick ‘feel good’ gesture is personal and should make donors feel valued.

Like, love, retweet and repost your donors’ content

Make a list of your major donors, corporate sponsors, and major supporters, and follow them on all social platforms. That way you will know what they are up to. You can even set up Google Alerts to discover when they are mentioned in the news. Be sure to “like” their social content and make comments to show you are interested in their work, and if they’re in the news, let them know you heard about it.

By paying attention to your donors and acknowledging their achievements, you’ll build better relationships. You’ll also learn more about them as a group or individually, which will inform you about the best content and your ongoing fundraising strategy.

Create a personal thank-you video using Instagram

Instagram makes it easy to create videos and share them. You, your staff and volunteers can make a short thank-you video for donors as they come in, then tag the donors and post it. You could also easily keep it low-key by sending an email, direct message or thank-you video by text.

Once you’re on a roll creating videos, it won’t take long – just set some parameters for what donations warrant a personal video. This creative form of gratitude will definitely be noticed!

Offer access to the C-Suite or an expert in the field

Offer your major donors exclusive access to your CEO or an aid worker in the field through a live Google Hangout. Google Hangout is an exclusive space, and it creates an atmosphere like a meeting between your staff and your supporters.

You could also try a Facebook webcast, like the Gates Foundation does; they use Facebook live chat to give supporters access to Bill Gates while promoting their work. British chef Jamie Oliver also uses live chat to demonstrate his work and to answer questions from his audience about his nutrition mission. Early analytics suggest that this has significantly higher results than posting alone, so it’s good for business and keen supporters.

Personal video calls

Another very digital way to say thank-you is via a one-on-one video call from a staff member or volunteer to the donor. You could even offer a virtual tour of the office or a site of significance to your work. The results of doing this can be extra rewarding!

Invite fans to visit you

A step beyond a virtual tour is a physical one. Some people are deeply engaged in your mission and would relish the opportunity to see the work behind the cause. By giving your donors a hands-on experience, such as volunteer opportunities or tours of your facility, you are cementing these relationships. Keep your donors excited about your work by letting them touch and see what they are funding.

Demonstrate impact above all

Offering supporters personal experiences with staff is an opportunity to talk about or demonstrate impact. Reinforcing the impact of your work and ultimately where each donation goes is a critical way to validate their support. Thank them for caring enough to help make the world a better place by sharing regular, meaningful updates on your work, in order to prove the change it is creating. This can also be done through video storytelling on social media or by direct email, effectively conveying the good news and the potential impact donations have on your mission.

Donors are a critical component in your ability to address your mission, and making them feel included and a vital part of the team will go a long way to ensuring their ongoing support.

When it comes time to say thank you, it should never be a “one size fits all” approach. Not all donors will want a public thank-you. For example, a friend sponsored me in a peer-to-peer event and asked to be kept anonymous, as she had lots of friends asking for sponsorship that year and couldn’t give to everyone. It’s important to ask first!

As I’ve listed above, there are so many public and private ways to express thanks to the people who keep your work ticking along, and each one is undoubtedly personal. In the neverending struggle for donor retention, it’s always valuable to have fresh tactics to call on to be a better fundraiser.

Here’s to your fundraising success!

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