You probably learnt the value of manners at a pretty young age. How many times have you held a door for someone, or let someone go in the parking lot, without even a thank you? I bet you noticed when they didn’t.

And you can be sure that if you aren’t thanking your donors for their gifts promptly, they’re going to notice too. And just like that unappreciative driver in the parking lot, you’re never going to see them again if you don’t.

We’ve written a number of times (here, here, and here) about the value of thanking donors and ways to do it properly, but some charities aren’t getting the message. One of my colleagues made a significant donation (of $250) about 2 and a half months ago, and has only JUST received a very stale thank you with a donation receipt.

This just isn’t good enough. And what an opportunity wasted! So here’s some small tips from Leah Eustace’s article “The gift that really counts: it’s not what you think” to help ensure you don’t make the same mistake:

1.      Get tax receipts and thank-you letters out FAST. I think three working days is an appropriate target for this critical step. By doing this, you’re telling the donor that she matters!

2.      Take some time to write a decent thank-you letter. Talk about where the money is going and the impact it will have on advancing the cause. Tell a story to show how a recipient’s life is affected by the gift. Have the signatory show some emotion – and passion – for the organization and the cause. Connect at a human level. This is a relationship you’re building – not a series of transactions.

3.      Have the person opening the envelopes phone the donor immediately with a 30-second call to say “Your cheque arrived today and we just wanted to say thanks.” Leave a voice mail if no-one answers. Email those people you can’t call. (You DID ask for email addresses on your reply coupon didn’t you?)

4.      Put together a new donor welcome kit to send a couple of weeks after the original thank-you letter and tax receipt. Include a well-written cover note and perhaps your latest newsletter or annual report. This is a great time to offer donors the opportunity to fill out a survey form that outlines how they want to hear from you.

5.      Always encourage donors to talk to you. Invite them to write, to call, to email or to drop by. In my experience, few ever will. But they sure appreciate knowing that they’re welcome to get in touch.

This is your chance to really take your donor relationships to a new level – and keep those gifts coming in!