Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Donor-Centered Thank You - Great Example from Best Friends Animal Society

I admit, I think Penelope Burk and her concept of donor-centered fundraising, is a gift to development officers. Her recommendations are based on quantifiable data, expertly researched and extremely valuable. I have had the privilege of hearing her speak at several conference and every time I come back inspired to focus more and more on what donors expect to hear from the charities they support.

In her book Donor-Centered Fundraising, Burk outlines 20 elements of a great letter thank you letter.  Because I think it's important for you to buy and read this book, I won't outline all of those but what always stands out to me is that the letter needs to be personalized and that it acknowledges how the gift will be used in specific terms.  It also arrives immediately and speaks directly to the donor.

I made a small gift via the Best Friends Animal Society yesterday to aid the rescue efforts for animals in Haiti. I was looking at their site for something else and saw the button to give for this special mission. I was familiar with what Best Friends did to rescue thousands of animals after Hurricane Katrina so I knew they would go out of their way to help the plight of animals lost and injured after the Haiti earthquakes.  I immediately felt compelled to make a donation, even though I had already helped with several other Haiti relief efforts.

I was particularly pleased with the immediate thank you note I received in my email after making my gift. I have no problem with email thank yous. It saves postage and even though they are automatically generated (one of the few fouls per Burk's rules), I did like that it told me very specifically how the money was going to be used: to fund a mobile clinic in Port-au-Prince to deliver food and water to animals as well as provide vaccines to dogs to prevent the spread of rabies.

I was also impressed with how Best Friends leveraged social media in the thank you letter, providing me with a link to share with family and friends. They also included an opportunity to sign up to be a monthly donor so that resouces are available when the unexpected occurs.

Finally, I was impressed with the inclusion of the Charity Navigator Four Star Charity link. This lends the charity legitimacy, much like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. 

The thank you letter was concise and it made me feel like I was doing something important.  Will I give again to Best Friends? I can't help myself. I think this organization does a remarkable job for helping animals and they do an equally fantastic job stewarding their donors. Best of all, this charity constantly educates its donors on how their gifts make a difference.  Many nonprofits can follow their example on how to foster loyal repeated giving.

Here's a copy of the note I received.

If I could give development officers a couple of pieces of advice: 1) Read and use as a frequent resouce Donor-Centered Fundraising and 2) apply the principles for writing outstanding thank you letters. The positive response from your donors will be worth every bit of time and effort you put forth to change how you focus on your donors, particularly from a stewardship perspective.

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