Thanksgiving of your donors: today, tomorrow, always

In this fast-paced society, it is easy for nonprofit organizations to neglect and even overlook the importance of donor recognition and its ability to sustain long-term relationships between donors and the organization. Nevertheless, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, organizations should take advantage of the opportunity to show gratitude and say thank you to their donors. And even after the day is done, with too much turkey eaten and pumpkin pie consumed, making and taking the time to give thanks to donors is an important part of deepening and maintaining strong donor retention, which has proven meaningful to organizations and donors alike.

Donor retention is a major problem facing organizations and a predicament that has not shown a steady trend of improvement over time. For every 100 donors gained, 102 are lost1 and given the research that shows the cost is ten times greater to acquire a new donor than it is to keep one2, it is no doubt becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to achieve their fundraising goals from year to year while keeping donor retention and renewal rates high. The bottom line is that how organizations treat donors is far more important than the amount they ask for or how much is received; if donors do not feel valued or appreciated, it is very likely they will not make a repeat gift.

Even if not directly attached to a gift, organizations must develop, implement and continually refine sustainable donor recognition strategies. Not only is it one of the most important things organizations can do to increase the possibility of donor renewal, but it also serves the purpose of keeping donors happy and engaged, in turn generating greater levels of impact across program areas and/or the people organizations serve. That said, for this greater impact to be possible, ongoing work of gratitude and appreciation is required. Similar to any Thanksgiving dinner where there are plenty of food options on the table, an organization’s approach to donor recognition should include a variety of choices — appetizers, main courses and desserts — to satisfy each person’s appetite.

This Thanksgiving, and beyond, here are some ways to let donors know they are appreciated, to express your thanks and show how much they mean to the organization:

Extend an invitation

One of the best ways to honour and appreciate donors is through ongoing engagement, so when giving thanks, invite donors to connect with the organization. Be it inviting them to follow your organization on social media, volunteering or attending a signature event in their honour, provide opportunities for donors to see and learn more about the organization’s programming and services. Demonstrating the impact of a donor’s gift is extremely powerful and results in donors feeling very appreciated, and gaining a better understanding of the work of the organization and how it would not exist, and could not continue, without them.

Give thanks – often and in different ways

As important as it is to show donors appreciation, there is even greater value in tailoring donor recognition to suit each donor’s interests and that aligns with their values. This could be a short thank you video from staff or people the organization works with, donor features in newsletters or other print material, names on a donor recognition wall and/or expressing thanks on different social media platforms etc. At the end of the day, strong, ongoing donor recognition not only makes donors feel special, it may encourage other donors to follow their lead because of how they see donors being appreciated.

Share the meal

When making that phone call, writing that personalized card or planning that donor appreciation gala, be sure to share photos, success stories and other organizational highlights. Putting a face to a donation and demonstrating the direct connection of a donor’s gift helps build deeper relationships and makes donors feel part of the organization’s journey, leading them to feel even more committed to the organization’s success and achievement of its mission.

The spirit of Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude for the good fortune one has received; by being intentional and making donor recognition a primary focus, both frequently and consistently, organizations have the ability to reap fruitful results and open doors to even more celebrations of thanks around the table for many years to come.