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Donor recognition: how do you say thank you?

After you and your fellow fundraisers spent countless hours thinking of creative ways to encourage people to participate in your cause and spread the word through their personal experiences, your campaign finally catches on. Through the power of social media, those hours of brainstorming are now paying huge dividends as your cause has gone viral, even if participants aren't pouring ice water over their heads.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of participants are donating and sharing their story through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels. They are challenging and encouraging their friends to take part, too.

This is great news. This explosion of support is more than you ever thought possible. So how do you give back? How do you thank them and let them know they've made a difference?

Donors give to your organization because they believe you are making a difference in a cause they care about. Your donors' gifts are their way of saying "we value your work and want to support you in your mission." Whether they jumped in on the "viral bandwagon," or they are lifelong supporters, you should make every effort to recognize each donation that was made during the campaign.

It is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of those bandwagon supporters and turn them into repeat donors.

Showing your appreciation to donors is incredibly important. It's what keeps them giving. Most donors don't need plaques or trinkets, which can cause them to question your spending priorities. Donors want to see what their gifts allowed you to accomplish--specific facts and stories of how their contribution made an impact.

Donors want to know how many school backpacks were delivered, how many women were counseled at the shelter this month, how many dogs were rescued and found forever homes ... you get the idea. Be sure to share as much detail as you can about the progress your organization has made. This is how they will know their money was put to the best use in your programs and services.

Here are three ideas to thank your donors and, if carefully crafted, will certainly show your appreciation:

* Say thank you visually--Photos are a great way to tell a story that shows what the donor is making possible. Video is another great medium for expressing gratitude. It is also the perfect way to express emotions via the same social media channels your donors used in the campaign.

* Build thank you pages on your website and other social media channels --If you accept donations on your website, you can thank donors by taking them to a "thank you" page after the donation is made. You can enhance this page with a video story. And, it's easy to personalize the page with the donor's name. Tell a story on Facebook about how much has been raised and where it is being used, then tweet it out using your campaign hashtag.

* Personalize thank you letters--Would you rather get a note from a telemarketer or an old friend?

If it's the latter, then fashion your thank you notes as if you are sending a thank you to an old friend. Put some thought into it. And, make sure it is signed by a recognizable figure within the organization. If you really want to leave a good impression with your supporters, send them a hand-written note in a regular envelope with a real stamp. Nothing says I want to thank you personally better than that. When the volume gets too high, ask your volunteers or board members to help.

Donors are important and it is your job to let them know it. Paying attention to their needs is the prime way to ensure they keep giving.

Thank them early--within a few days of their gift--and thank them often. More importantly, keep reporting back on the difference they have made. Social media channels have made this task much easier--take advantage of it.

By recognizing and honoring your donors this way, you will build lasting relationships.

Christine Schaefer is vice president, marketing and product, of advocacy at fundraising and advocacy firm Salsa in Reston, Va. Her email is
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Author:Schaefer, Christine
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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