What’s the best way to say thank you to a donor? Personally, promptly, sincerely, and with perfect accuracy. After that’s it’s gravy.
What’s the best time to send happy wishes to a donor? After they give a gift, to be sure. As the anniversary of their gift approaches, to remind them of your appreciation? Certainly. Ten times per year, if you can? Yes.
My favorite is the good old, “Happy Birthday!”
There aren’t many bad ways to say thank you and steward donors, but there are some better ways than others. Instead of holiday and Valentine’s day greetings from your organization, why don’t you learn your donor’s birthdays and develop systems to send truly personal and timely greetings?
An excellent stress test for any donor facing development program is asking, “Do you know your donor’s birthdays, and what do you do with that information?” A fundraising program that learns birthdays, institutionalizes birthdays into donor records, and is able to act with timeliness to provide good stewardship via a sincere “Happy Birthday” is place doing good work. It is the grandson who calls his grandmother on her birthday every year without fail, and has his college tuition covered.
Holiday cards are fine, though tricky in 2018, and maybe played out at this point. Years ago organizations would send formal Christmas cards, and that was well and fine and good until it wasn’t. And so now everyone sends Thanksgiving cards, or general Holiday cards, or Happy New Year cards. And no one feels really great about it. My personal favorite is the Holiday card that isn’t printed by the organization until December 23, and then is frantically mailed on December 27 between Christmas and New Year’s, and is often received by the donors after the first of the year.
Sure, send Holiday cards if you wish, though I am not that into it. At my house we display all of our (mostly) Christmas cards on the mantle. It is our current life stage, and maybe yours as well, but the vast majority of the cards we receive are photo collages of families, with babies and dogs and more babies.
So, compared with those meaningful photo cards from friends and family, the generic holiday card from the Food Pantry is not bad, but not great. Blah.
If you want to impress your donors, learn birthdays. It is easier now than ever, with Facebook and other online sources (though note this handy guide to Facebook donor friendships from our friends at Bloomerang). Who do we reach out to on their birthday in our personal lives? Our closest friends and families. Wouldn’t we want our donors to think of us in those terms?
Once you know the birthday, send a card, signed by the staff the donor knows. Better yet, make a phone call. A birthday is a fine time to touch base without asking for anything (asking for a gift on a birthday is surely bad form). Maybe drop off a treat, or, for your closest donors, arrange a special lunch or visit. Loneliness and isolation are a societal ill for our older friends and donors. We can do something small to help.
That’s love, That’s family. That is authentic and lasting stewardship. Learn your donor’s birthdays. Act accordingly.