Nonprofits often have a hard time acquiring and retaining longtime donors. It's not uncommon to lose as many donors as gained or to lose as much money in donations as gained, making the entire effort seem like running on a treadmill: a lot of effort but no forward movement.
According to a 2019 charitable giving report from nonprofit software company Blackbaud, retention for first-time donors ranges from 24% to 27%. However, retention goes up considerably after one year, ranging from 57% to 63% for donors who have given more than once.
Convincing donors to stay with you for more than a year takes a lot of gratitude, which can be expressed in myriad ways.
There are many obvious ways to thank donors, from the obligatory thank you letter to recognition at a gala. However, with the ubiquity of social media platforms, the process of thanking donors has become all the more enticing for several reasons: It’s low cost, you can reach many donors on these platforms, and saying thanks is relatively easy.
- Retaining donors past a one-time gift is difficult, but lots of gratitude, such as thank you letters and social media recognition, can help.
- Social media is a popular and low-cost way to thank donors frequently.
- Social media thank yous can be part of a gratitude campaign.
- Social media thank yous can help build a loyal donor base.
- Saying thank you via social media cannot replace formal acknowledgment letters that donors use to substantiate their donations for tax purposes.
What Impacts Donor Loyalty?
Donors make a decision to stay loyal to your organization and to give again based on numerous actions, but three in particular stand out.
A Timely and Meaningful Acknowledgment Letter
An acknowledgment letter should be immediate and consist of more than just a receipt. The acknowledgment letter, usually sent by mail, is not just a “nice to do,” but a “must do” since donors use these letters/receipts to prove to the IRS that they deserve a charitable tax deduction on their personal income taxes.
For contributions of less than $250, donors may use a bank statement or credit card statement. But for donations of more than $250, they need a formal letter from the charity stating how much they gave and how much is tax-deductible. Charities are expected to provide these letters promptly.
A Progress Report
Donors want to know the impact of their gift and what it helped to accomplish. Your donors need to hear from your organization frequently about what their donations made possible. Social media is one excellent way for you to stay visible while acknowledging donor generosity.
Appreciation for Their Generosity
There are many reasons donors don’t give a second and third time to charities. But one of the most important is the feeling of not being appreciated.
Although you might have fulfilled the basic requirements of sending a formal acknowledgment letter and an email receipt immediately after the donation, donors enjoy being appreciated frequently in more casual but meaningful ways.
Social media is an ideal way to stay top of the mind with donors between more formal communications. You can send mass social media posts to your followers or a thank you to a specific donor. It’s quick, easy, and cost-effective.
While social media has its benefits when it comes to donor communication, it shouldn't fully replace the acknowledgment letter or personal techniques such as thanking donors face-to-face, phone calls, handwritten thank you notes, and appreciation events.
Showcase Your Donors
You can thank large groups of donors or a particular donor on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
For large groups, rely on your list of followers on your platform of choice. You can send photos, videos, and more to everyone. If you collect the social media handles of your donors by asking for them on donation forms, you can send a thank you to an individual or many people at one time.
Singling out a particular donor in a social media post can inspire others to give. However, If you want to spotlight a particular donor to a list of many supporters, make sure to check with that person first and get permission. And never post a donation amount.
There are other ways to inspire other donors by example, such as making it possible on your donation receipt to share the fact that certain donors gave with their friends and followers. You can provide social media buttons for this and a statement such as “Hey, I just donated to Charity X! It’s a great organization!” Whatever message you send, be sure to include phrases such as “Because of you” or “Thanks to your generosity.”
Think of social media thank-yous in the broadest possible terms. You might be saying thank you after the conclusion of a campaign or following up later with the results of a campaign. You might also send information about how donors can learn more about your cause or dive more deeply into a particular issue.
The best long-term strategy to thank donors and encourage them to remain a part of your nonprofit community is to share consistently practical, useful, and valuable information.
By connecting your donors to other resources they may find valuable, sharing helpful information, and providing useful tips and content, you show them that you listen and understand them. In return, they may engage with you on social media and share your posts with their networks.
All of these messages, from thank yous to progress reports to useful information, can be touchpoints. The more touchpoints with a donor, the deeper the relationship with them, and the greater likelihood that they will stay with you. Some of the most serious reasons donors give for not staying with a charity include poor communication, no feedback about results, and lack of appreciation.
Repost Your Donors’ Content
Make a list of your donors, corporate sponsors, funders, and major supporters on various social platforms. Also, set up Google Alerts for this same list of people and their companies so you can stay on top of news about them.
Monitor their tweets, blog posts, and news stories and share their content on your social media channels. By showing that you are paying attention and acknowledging their other achievements—beyond just donating to your organization—you will build better relationships with these donors. In the process, you’ll also learn more about them, which is always an effective fundraising strategy.
Make "Thank You" Videos
Almost all social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok make it easy to share videos. For instance, you and your staff or volunteers can make a short and sweet thank you video for donations after or even during a campaign using just your smartphone.
Consider offering your donors exclusive access to your top officials through live streaming on Facebook. Or provide a live, behind-the-scenes look at an event or program.
Use the “stories" capability that is available on most social media platforms to create engaging narratives about the people or animals your donors help. While these stories are short and usually temporary, they can give viewers candid narratives from unusual perspectives to connect them with your organization and its people or animals.
Make Yourself Accessible
There may be nothing worse for a donor than giving money to a cause and receiving no feedback afterward. Here are some proactive steps you can take to avoid this situation:
- Get that thank-you letter out of the door quickly and then engage frequently on social media to make donors feel that they are important to your organization.
- Create a transparent online culture where donors and other members of your online community can ask questions and voice opinions.
- Respond to questions and comments whenever and however they come in, and do not shy away from debates and conversations on your social media channels. Chime in where appropriate or direct people offline to further address their concerns.
- Respond quickly to complaints. Use the principles of good customer service and see donor satisfaction soar.
Run a Gratitude Campaign
You can set up a gratitude campaign for any fundraising drive. It’s simply a targeted group of messages sent to donors to keep them engaged after their donations. The campaign should be multichannel, using all tools available from email to social media and even direct mail.
Your gratitude campaign could be a multi-day effort complete with social media posts, photos, and videos. Some charities have run 14-day or 30-day campaigns. Or It might be twice a week for a certain period of time.
Use various formats and approaches. Highlight people or animals that benefited from a fundraising campaign provide additional resources for a deep dive into the issue at hand or feature volunteers who have made a big contribution to the organization’s success.
Connect Donors to Each Other
Start an exclusive social media group for your donors, especially those engaged in a peer-to-peer campaign to support your cause.
Creating a group like this for donors who also fundraise on your behalf is especially gratifying since they can then share best practices, ideas, and give feedback on each other's campaigns. Donors are people, too, and they have careers and professional interests of their own. Helping them advance and build their networks is a fantastic way to give thanks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What’s the best method for thanking donors?
The best ways to thank donors are by a mailed letter or note or personally through a phone call or face-to-face visit. These methods are the most likely to affect future giving. Social media can be an important adjunct to those methods and help you stay in touch with donors more frequently.
What should you say when you’re thanking donors?
Talk about the donor, not yourself or your organization. Say “thank you” frequently and use phrases such as “because of your generosity” and “you have made this possible.” Give examples of real people or animals a donor has helped.