Isn’t that a great line? A board member at a local nonprofit said it as a joke when we were talking about making effective thank you calls. We all laughed. But when you think about it, that really is the subtext when you’re making those calls.
I see a growing number of nonprofits organizing their staff and board to call and thank donors as soon as possible after a gift is made. This is fantastic. We know from the research that a thank you call really does impact a donor’s decision to give again.
But, I don’t see a whole lot of strategy around how thank you calls are structured or much of a feedback loop for integrating what’s learned from those calls back into a fundraising approach.
Here are a few ideas for taking your thank you process up a notch:
1. Prioritize your calls.
Most people call donors who make gifts above a certain dollar amount. Where you set that bar is really dependent upon the number of calls your staff and volunteers can actually make.
But, don’t forget some other key segments who should get calls: first-time donors, loyal donors who’ve been giving for 3 or 4 or 10 years, monthly donors (call them at least once per year!), returning donors (“we’re so happy to have you back”), or those who’ve given to some special initiative you may have going on. Again, it’s about your capacity.
Consider where the greatest opportunity for growth and long-term relationships lies and place your efforts there.
2. Train your thank you callers.
Give your callers a very short script and encourage them to practice once or twice before making their calls. Here’s a sample approach:
Start with: “I’m a board member at XYZ organization. I’m not calling to ask you for anything. We just really want you to know how much we appreciate your recent gift. It makes such a difference in the lives of our clients.”
Then, add something specific to their gift, for example if it’s a first-time gift say “welcome”!
Many donors at this point will simply say, “Great, thanks” and want to hang up. Let them! You have achieved your primary purpose which is to sincerely and personally express your thanks.
Other donors will be excited to chat. Be ready with a few questions: “How did you hear about us?” “Have you seen our programs in action?” “Hey, have you ever considered volunteering with us?” “What made you decide to give to us at this time?” “Is there anything in particular about our work that you’d like to stay informed about?” You get the idea. Don’t pepper them with all these questions and be sure to listen more than you talk.
Make sure your callers understand that it’s truly important to thank the donor, fully and genuinely, before asking for another gift. They should not turn thank you calls into solicitation calls. That said, research shows that these calls WILL result in more gifts down the line.
3. Create a system for capturing information.
Use emails, call reports, or whatever works for your organization to get that feedback into your database as quickly as possible.
4. Have a “Thank-A-Thon.”
Instead of handling the thank you calls remotely, gather your board members together at someone’s office or at your agency and have them spend an hour making calls. Offer them pizza! This will create enthusiasm in their voices and will also enable you to capture those call reports on the spot. Consider doing this monthly, perhaps before or after a board meeting. It can be something your board members really look forward to.
While staff can and should make thank you calls, engaging your board in the process has all kinds of benefits. It certainly impresses the donors and it helps your board grow more comfortable with the fundraising process.
What an easy and wonderful way to ensure a future gift. At which point you can say “thank you” again!