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How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations by 39%

If you are serving as a nonprofit board member, I’m sure you are often asked to help in fundraising.

Here’s how you and your fellow board members can help increase donations to your organization by 39% – without having to do any “asking.”

To Increase Donations, All You Have to Do is Say “Thank You.”

Are you and your fellow board members nervous about having to solicit or ask for gifts? We understand.

So we’d like to suggest a different role in fundraising for you. How about taking on a thanking role with donors?

When you, as a board member, offer your personal thanks to your organization’s donors, you can make a huge difference.  In fact, you can directly impact your institution’s bottom line, while avoiding gift solicitations that could be awkward.

Special Thank You Treatment for Donors.

Try this test and track your results. Then you can evaluate how this strategy works for you and your fellow board members.

The next time your organization sends out a fundraising appeal, work with your staff to select out a random group of donors to receive a special thank you treatment.

Organize a team of  board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It’s important to make the call immediately after your organization receives the gift.

If the donor does not answer, the board member can leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

If any of the board members are adventurous, they can take another step and ask the donor why they chose to make this gift. That would create a rich conversation that the donor will enjoy.

Track Your Results.

A few months after this first gift, your organization should send another fundraising appeal to all donors – both those who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received a standard acknowledgment letter.

And when repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups.

You’ll find, when all other things are equal, some interesting results.

The donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of the gift being received, will usually give up to 39% more than the other group.

This is how board members help increase donations without having to ask.

3. The Original Research Findings.

Fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk performed the original research that found these amazing results. Her team originated the  “Donor Centered Fundraising” philosophy, a paradigm shift that changes the emphasis away from the organization’s needs and instead focuses on helping the donor create an impact.

Penelope Burk shared this data on board member thank you calls at an AFP International Conference from her research:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

4. How to Implement Board Member Thank You Calls.

Some board members may offer to make calls, but not follow through. So you will want only those who are enthusiastic and committed to sign up for this project.

  1. First, share the data with board members about the financial results from making prompt, personal thank you calls to donors. Be sure everyone understands the “why” of the project and the upside positive potential from making these calls promptly.
  2. Have one or two board members take charge of the project. Enlist a small committee. Be sure to coordinate closely with your staff.
  3. Make sure the committee members all understand that prompt timing is essential.
  4. Give each committee member specific phone calls to make. Don’t send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
  5. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.

One organization we know asked the board members to post their thank you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls. Word had it that a competition took hold and each board member tried to outdo the others.

The busiest person on the board – a busy lawyer – made sure his calls were as up to date – or more up to date – as all the others. Now that is productive and friendly competition!

A Success Story of How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations:

Here’s an example from our own history:

One of our consulting clients, a local Rape Crisis Center, was staging their annual auction. One of our friends attended with us, and apparently purchased a lot of items at the auction.

The next day I was sitting in my office, when our friend called.

Excitedly, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I just got a phone call from a board member of the Rape Crisis Center thanking me for . . . for   . . .  for being the largest donor at the auction last night!”

“I just can’t believe it,” he gushed. “I’ve given money all over the country and I’ve NEVER gotten a call from a board member.”

We could just feel him beaming all the way over the phone. He was absolutely thrilled.

The next year, he asked us “Is the Rape Crisis Center having their auction this fall? I haven’t gotten an invitation yet?”

That year, he bought an entire table and hosted the president of the largest foundation in North Carolina at his table. I think the Rape Crisis Center has him for life now, because they gave him such special treatment.

Bottom Line: Board Members Can Increase Donations to Their Organizations – Simply by Saying Thank You.

A little effort goes a long way – remember that and remind your board. A simple acknowledgement phone call could be just the thing your donor needs to become a loyal lifelong major donor.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

How are your organization’s thank you letters to donors? Are they warm and gracious? Or do they sound grand and lofty, like someone giving a speech?

We expect your thank you’s can use some brushing up. Invariably, we find that our consulting clients are struggling with lame, tired sounding thank you notes. And they always ask us for help to create a killer thank you letter.

Why are thank you letters so important?

Because this note is your first communication to a donor after she gives, that’s why. It has the potential to make her happy that she gave to your cause.

In addition, your letter can accomplish a lot. It can:

  • Assure your nervous donor that she made a wise investment.
  • Make your donor feel like she did the right thing.
  • Help her feel joyful she made the gift.

Today, here’s our checklist of 14 steps to a warm, wonderful, killer thank you letter – one that makes your donor feel so happy that she gave.

1. Make your letter prompt.

A really prompt thank you note impresses your donor. It indicates to her that your organization is well run.

What’s more, it builds credibility and trust with your donor, and inclines her to think well of you.

2. Make your letter feel personal.

This makes the letter feel like it came from a real person.

  • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
  • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. Count how many times you use the word “you.”
  • A warm tone toward the donor (vs. a lofty formal, distant tone.)
  • Casual writing – use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
  • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

3. Start out in a personal way.

Never begin with “on behalf of . . . “

Much better to simply say: “We are so grateful for . . . “

4. Use a warm tone.

Does your letter really sound sincere? Or is it full of “nonprofit-speak” with formal words and phrases?

Show yourself as a real person, and try to connect with the donor instead of staying so distant.

5. Be emotional.

Don’t bury it.  Giving is an emotional act by the donor. So it’s fine to wear your heart on your sleeve.

Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.

Say things like:

  • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
  • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
  • “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
  • “You were wonderful to renew your support . . .”

6. Thank smaller gifts warmly.

Smaller gifts should also get warm, prompt, personal thank you’s.

Remember, there are plenty of major gift prospects in your donor files who are giving you smaller gifts.

Treat these donors well by sending them killer thank you letters that build confidence and trust.  Then they may reward you with repeat and larger gifts.

7. Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

Is your donor a monthly donor? Have they given for a long time?

It’s wonderful if you can acknowledge and celebrate a long term donor – and it would mean the world to them.

8. Sign the letter personally and write a note at the bottom.

You spent all that time writing notes on your appeal letters. By all means, also write a note on the thank you letter.

Remember, the PS is the most-read part of your killer thank you letter. Make it count.

9. Send more than one thank you letter.

The old fundraising motto is: “Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.”

For example, you can always ask different staffers to send an additional note.

This small step could help your organization stand out among a sea of other organizations.

10. Send an additional thank you letter from a board member.

I know organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters.

We highly recommend this strategy, because it helps connect trustees to the fundraising process.

11. Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.

The letter should be signed by the highest ranking person you can find – the chair of the board or a board member. It should not be signed by the wonderful, but lowly, development coordinator.

You could also have the artistic director or a performer sign the letter. Or a teacher if you are a school. Or a field officer if you are an environmental organization.

12. Send a thank you letter from a person helped by your organization.

We can’t think of anything more powerful. Your donor is really giving to create an impact, so help them feel this directly.

13. Reconfirm the purpose of the gift.

If the gift is for the library, for example, say something about what the library plans to achieve with the gift.

Most donors are worried that their gift will not be spent wisely.

Acknowledging how the money will be spent is essential – it helps build trust.

14. Include a contact name and number.

Including contact info is good manners, and it makes the donor feel a person connection to your organization.

For example, it would be the head of the library if that’s where the donor directed her gift.

Bottom Line: How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Remember: your overall goal is to keep your donor giving and giving over many years. Your thank you letter is an essential first step in building a long and happy relationship of generous support from your donor.

This is how you create a sustainable fundraising program – developing consistent and repeated gifts from loyal donors who are passionate about your work.

Do’s and Don’ts

Thank you letter DO’s

  • Be really, really prompt.
  • Get the donor’s name right.
  • Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.
  • Show some emotion.
  • Convey gratitude.
  • Refer to how the gift will be used.
  • Send several thank you notes from different people.
  • Include additional thank you letters from board members.
  • Send a thank you letter from someone helped by your organization.
  • Sign it with a real signature.
  • Be positive and upbeat.
  • Include a contact name and number if the donor has questions.
  • Handwrite it if you know the donor well.
  • Begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor.

Thank You Letter DON’TS

  • Start out with “on behalf of.”
  • Ask for another gift.
  • Use thank you letter jargon: “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
  • Start out with Dear Friend.
  • Ask anything else from your donor right now.
  • Misspell their name.
  • Have errors in grammar, punctuation or misspellings.
  • Go on and on. Ditch the verbosity. Do be concise.
  • Keep selling.
  • Re-use copy that you used in the solicitation letter to talk about your programs.
  • Be formal. Or lofty.
  • Be vague about how the money will be used.
  • Sign it yourself if you can get a higher-ranking person to sign it.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.