When your nonprofit receives donations, volunteers’ time and talents, or any kind of contribution, a genuine show of gratitude from the organization is absolutely vital to retention. It’s not just a matter of thanking them for the contribution; a major goal of a thank you note is ensuring donors and volunteers that their contribution has made an impact. Your organization thrives on their generosity, and they deserve gratitude and acknowledgment that reflects this fact! Resist the urge to let your gratitude slip down the list of priorities.

There are a couple prerequisites you’ll need to tackle before you can worry about writing thank you cards that express genuine gratitude from your nonprofit. That starts with segmenting your donors and volunteers. Hopefully you’ve already done this as part of an effort to communicate more effectively with them.

Set Your Standard

Once you’ve segmented donors and volunteers, consider the strategy and timetable for sending them thank you’s. It’s simply not thoughtful or appreciative to send one generic thank you card to everyone in your system. Does anything make your eyes roll more than receiving the same flimsy, thoughtless Christmas card once a year from the salesman who sold you a car 11 years ago? Think of how your donors would feel receiving that same card—not very important. It’s lazy and unappreciative.

While we don’t encourage trying to “quantify” how much a major donor means to you compared to a one-time, $50 donor, it’s important to show thanks in a way that at least acknowledges the impact of one’s contribution. Just like you wouldn’t send that crummy Christmas card to everyone on your list, you don’t need to send a handwritten Shakespearean-quality note to everyone 20 times a year. A prompt and grateful thank you note should follow each donation, whether that’s a recurring monthly contribution or a small one-off.

Make It Count

Every organization is different of course, and you’re often at the mercy of your resources. A good baseline to follow is that you should personalize thank you notes/cards/emails to the fullest extent allowed by your CRM. In other words, when creating cards, you want to personalize them as much as your time and dollars allow.

Following up every contribution is a great start. Digging deeper though, keep in mind that you don’t want to send the same card, or message, to the same person more than once. Would you feel appreciated as a monthly donor if you got the same thank you card in the mail each month? You’d probably think it was a waste of envelopes and ink. 

The same idea can be applied to emails if you really want to get more bang for your buck. Once you’ve segmented your donors, develop a custom “thank you” email template for each segment. Instead of sending the same email design to everyone, you’ll be sending out a variety. Even if donors share notes, they’ll see that different groups received different emails with their own unique set of fun graphics.

Make It Personal

A great tactic for personalizing thank you cards (or any kind of mass mailing, or emails, for that matter) is using what we call “variable data.” When printing thank you cards at a large scale, variable data allows you to customize the card with each unique recipient’s name, as long as you have a list of your donors that can be supplied to the printer. Depending on the size of your segments and mailing lists, you’ll score a lot of brownie points if the content itself—not just the names—is also customized to a degree. At the very least, you want a version that thanks volunteers for their time and donors for their gift(s). If possible, thanking “John F. Doe for his $500.00 contribution to your youth after school program that will supply local youth with a new basketball hoop at the rec center,” even better! (But probably not as feasible)

Since that level of customization is rarely possible (or practical), make the variable data name customization your baseline. Never underestimate the power of a postcard, thank you note or letter addressed personally. Of course, depending on the size of your organization, you might actually have the capacity to hand-write notes to all donors, or at least those giving gifts regularly or at an above-average scale. In that case, you’ll want to show your appreciation with custom, high-quality cards branded for your nonprofit.

Whether you’re mass mailing notes or handwriting on custom stationery, the content of a great and appreciative thank you note should all:

  • Be sent more than yearly
  • Be personal
  • Be timely
  • Resonate with the donor/volunteer

Ideas flowing for how to send donors personalized, thoughtful thank you cards through the year? You’ve come to the right place.

Check out more of our most popular design products, including some developed just for nonprofits like yours:

 

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