Friday, July 20, 2012

How To Thank Your Sustainers

Sustainers cause much anxiety in Development staff when it comes to thanking them.

We’re so programmed to thank a donor within 48 hours of a gift hitting our desk that we’re flummoxed to hear this might not be the best strategy.

First, stay true to your mission:  if you’re a disease-oriented cause or you have many elderly Sustainers, you may want to snail-mail thank you letters each month, as a thank you note is a welcome respite in their mailboxes. 

Conversely, mailing a monthly hard copy thank you letter might defeat your environmental mission and alienate true believers. 

Make the decision that makes the most sense for your donors and your cause.

Consider the case of a hip, young nonprofit that only sends a hard copy thank you letter in January for the previous tax-year:

  • Send a hard copy thank you letter for the donor’s first gift.  This confirms everything is working (even if you’ve already called or otherwise confirmed).  You can note you’ll send a thank you letter at calendar year-end.
    • An annual thank you in January for the donor who started giving last February is way overdue.
  • Send a hand-written thank you note 4-6 months into the year (or after the first gift)
  • Have a Trustee call to thank 6-9 months into the year
  • Email/Text/Thank on social media (not publicly, unless you know it’s appropriate for this donor)
  • Space out these additional thank you’s to correspond with the donor’s first gift and any other communications/invitations from you.  Don’t overwhelm your Sustainers in March only to go radio silent for 10 months.
  • Whatever you decide – monthly thank you letters/emails or only annual ones – let your donors know up-front and periodically.
    • Your March hand-written note might include something like “although
      we save trees by not mailing you each month, on the 15th of each month when we see our list of monthly donors, we’re so grateful your name is among them.”