by Kyla Winchester
(Note: Part 1 can be found here. In part 1, I talked about donating to a GoFundMe and how it illustrated to importance of quickly telling donors the impact of their gifts.)
Heartfelt and personal
Let’s consider a more formal thank-you typical of the way many of learn to write, whether through education or through our organization’s culture:
Dear Ms Smith, Thank you for your gift to our Community Clean program. Your donation will make a difference for everyone in the neighbourhood and the visitors who come to work, shop and enjoy West Park every day. Please find your receipt enclosed; don’t hesitate to contact us at 123-555-6789 if you have any questions. Thank you, Kyla
As fundraisers, we can be pretty confident that a number of people don’t read what we send them, or don’t remember it very long if they do. But this shouldn’t deter us from adding emotion and connection wherever we can. Some things are inherently distancing: use of a title (which your organization may be unwilling to change); receipt information; contact ‘us’, not me, which can be impersonal; generic information about impact. So let’s rewrite:
Dear Teresa, Thank you for your gift to our Community Clean program. Each year after our annual clean-park event, I am so proud to see how beautiful West Park is. You can be just as delighted to share this wonderful space with others who love it as much as you and I do. Thank you so much for beautifying West Park and for helping make our lives more wonderful every day we are here. Warm regards, Kyla
You may be wondering, “this is all well and good, but will my donors like it?” That is exactly the right question, and it’s why you should test wherever possible. I haven’t heard much about testing thank-you copy, but there are nonetheless a couple options.
A longer-term test might be the best option if you have fewer small, regular engagements from which to draw data. In a longer-term test, your benchmarks would likely be renewal rate, time before renewing and gift amount. However, considering the typical annual cycle of giving, this would probably have to take place over the course of a year. As with all tests, you have to split randomly and be diligent about training all relevant staff to track who gets the ‘test’ thank-you (and ensure they get the test again if they give again during the test period.)
This is a great option if you have more frequent engagements that can be used as benchmarks, e.g. signing up for a newsletter, joining an event, responding to an advocacy action, clicking through in an email, requesting more info, etc. This allows you to see faster results, but keep in mind it’s still a proxy: you’re measuring engagement, not donations. Theoretically, if a thank-you letter resonates better with donors, it should boost both post-thank-you engagement and renewal, but it might not. (For example, the effect might only last a couple months, before most people give again). Boosting engagement might be a great result of a new thank-you, and likely leads to more and larger donations; however, it’s not the same as affecting donations directly, and it’s important to not to conflate them. Again, track carefully who gets the test letter and decide in advance what you want to use as benchmarks; and consider reviewing the renewal rates, time to renewal and gift amount directly when enough time has passed.
Finally, the quickest test is likely digital: it’s really the only way to get a donor response to a thank-you. For example, you could have a test thank-you page: on the ‘old’ control thank-you page, you can have the regular thank-you copy and add some links at the bottom, e.g. to sign up for a newsletter, learn more about our work near you, or get a digital download. In the test, you use different copy for the thank-you but you'd copy-and-paste the bottom section with links. You can track click-throughs or downloads from each page and again use the differing rates of engagement to gauge response to the thank-you: presumably the more they like the thank-you, the longer they’ll stay on the page and the also the more interested they’ll be in engaging. Again this in an indirect measurement: we’re measuring engagement, not directly measuring donations. Moreover, this is measuring the immediate response to a thank-you, which might not reflect how they’ll give in a year or so. But again, more engagement typically leads to more/bigger donations. Just keep in mind it’s not a one-to-one measure and be sure to clarify that when sharing results.
Now go forth and demonstrate impact!