The power of thanks

So here’s something the Nonprofiteer heard yesterday: if an agency’s response to every initial donation is to have a Board member pick up the phone and call the donor to thank him/her, the likelihood of a second donation increases by something like 80%.

What’s terrific about that (other than the obvious, donor retention) is that picking up the phone is often the biggest hurdle Board members need to clear to become effective fundraisers.  So if they get used to picking up the phone in a completely non-threatening situation–when their only task is to say, “Hi, I’m a volunteer Board member of agency X and I just wanted to thank you for your gift–we really appreciate your support”–you’re halfway (well, maybe one-third-way) to getting them to pick up the phone and ask their friends to come to a benefit event or a fundraising lunch.

Sounds like the ultimate low-cost high-yield endeavor.  Has anyone tried it?  Is it as good as it sounds?

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3 Responses to “The power of thanks”

  1. Cheri Coons Says:

    Kelly- this is wonderful to read. I’m on the board of a not-for-profit theatre that is about to make the thank you calls. I will report back to you our results!

    I know that the hand-signed thank you notes I receive from organization’s leaders when I donate make a big difference in how I feel about contributing. I feel like a valued contributor, and I feel more personally connected to the organization.

    I passed your piece on to the rest of the board members!

    Thank YOU!
    Cheri Coons

  2. Anita Bernstein Says:

    It sounds like a fabulous strategy for new gifts above a certain (low?) minimum. Especially if the ED or other manager can match up interests and temperaments between board member and donor. Query though whether the telephone is still used for business communications like these! My sense is it’s dwindling.

    Nonprofiteer, you used to be a law school admissions director so you probably know that Stanford Law, a smallish school, would send out its admissions letters ostensibly from a faculty member rather than the administrative office, inviting the recipient to contact the signing professor with any questions. (I don’t know if they’re still doing it that way.) Similar great idea: announce an enthusiastic connection, make it personal, invite buy-in. But it’s even better for nonprofits because of the reason you give: most board members can use the practice of talking about gifts with new people.

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      Yes, and the minimum should be very low–better to over-thank than to neglect someone. And you’re right that the use of the phone is decreasingly common, but it’s still the best medium for the personal touch–and for the practice that Board members need. I didn’t know about the Stanford approach, but we used a follow-up system that was similar: after the letter of acceptance, the prospective student received a letter from a professor in a field in which they’d indicated an interest (we modified the application to include a question, “What areas of law particularly interest you?”): “The Admissions Office tells me you’re particularly interested in international law. You should know . . . (details about program) . . . please feel free to call me with questions, and I encourage you to come sit in on my classes.” Each of these steps–the phone, the follow-up letter, the encouragement to visit–can be adapted to virtually any nonprofit.

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