How are you saying thank you?

Posted on October 2, 2012

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Thank You in TurkishA simple thank you can go a long way towards making your day better, but that nicety can also translate into positive results in fundraising and mobilisation work.

Maybe we send a form letter. Or maybe we figure “they gave us time or money so they care and will stick around (or give again, make calls, come to the next action, etc.).”

Admit it, you’ve done this (or had it done to you). And you knew it didn’t feel right. But can you prove that a heartfelt thank you helps?

“Thank You” in Turkish.
Photo by Michael Silberman.

International Rescue Committee tests personal thank you calls and letters

We recently caught up with Alia McKee of Sea Change Strategies who shared with us a story about saying thanks in simple but powerful ways that (this is the good part) was tested and had a positive impact on fundraising and engagement.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) works, in part, to resettle refugees around the world. In the second half of 2010, the IRC tested thank you calls to donors that gave $100 to $149. They divided donors into three groups:

  • The first, the control group, received no call.
  • The second was called and thanked by a staff member.
  • The third group was called by a refugee with whom the IRC worked to resettle.

By mid-2011, thank you calls made within six weeks of the donation had the greatest impact on increased giving. Those receiving calls from refugees increased donations 16%. Staff calls increased donations 5%.

Thank you note from IRC donorA letter from an International Rescue Committee donor sent after being thanked by a refugee helped by the IRC.

Simply put, a personal thanks made the donor feel appreciated and more likely to give again and give more when they did give. In some cases, refugees have sent handwritten notes to donors when they couldn’t reach them by phone. Many donors have written back to refugees to let them know they appreciated hearing from them.

A letter from an International Rescue Committee donor
sent after being thanked by a refugee helped by the IRC.

But we can’t write notes to everyone, can we?

It’s not likely that you’ll send handwritten notes to every donor. The IRC focused on those giving $100 to $149, a segment that typically gets little personal attention from organizations and can be hard to upgrade or keep at that level.

But there are ways to improve your thank you process. You can, for example, get creative with personalized fields in email thank you notes — and be sure to make them relevant to current events and the source of the donation.

We also heard a story from Rachel Weidinger at Upwell about giving thanks. Rachel told us about how Upwell wanted to acknowledge people that shared their content on social networks. Interns tracked down business contact information for these people and they were sent notes of thanks. This personal touch has been powerful as Upwell works to build a powerful group of advocates for oceans.

Fundraising is about relationships — as are mobilisation and organizing. Trust created through a relationship gives one confidence to act out, speak out, and take on leadership or other roles in a campaign. It may all start with a simple thank you.

We want to know: Maybe you’re at Greenpeace working with volunteers or at another organization running a social media campaign. Or maybe something totally different. How are you saying thanks? What would you like to test? Who needs more acknowledgment, and how can we get it done? Let us know in the comments area.

Guest blogger Ted Fickes has spent his career helping nonprofit organizations and political campaigns raise money and win campaigns using strategies that integrate online and offline actions. He lives for data, believes organizations really can engage people long-term online and understands organizations need a healthy understanding of networks to thrive in a digital world.

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