4 Budget-Friendly Ways to Thank Your Nonprofit’s Donors
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Running a nonprofit involves a lot of moving parts and consequently, plenty of expenses. From staff salaries to fundraising events to software fees, it can be challenging to fit all the necessary costs into your budget. Any efforts you can make to lessen the burden of these expenses can be a big help.
One cost you can easily take steps to cut down on is your donor appreciation efforts. Showing appreciation frequently and in a variety of ways is vital for retaining donors, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. These low-cost ways to thank donors can make your recognition strategy more sustainable:
As you reevaluate your strategy, take note of how much you’ve spent on donor appreciation efforts in the past. Then, see how much you can reduce that expense going forward with these budget-friendly methods.
1. Personalized emails
Sending thank-you emails is one of the most inexpensive and straightforward ways to show donors your appreciation.
To ensure you’re making the most of these emails, use nonprofit analytics to segment donors and increase personalization. Donor giving data like past donation amounts, giving frequency, and recency of giving should guide your email segmentation strategy. For example, you might create one segment of donors who’ve given gifts over $500 in the past year and another for lapsed donors who gave under $100.
Then, tailor thank-you emails for each group. For instance, you might thank lapsed donors for their past contributions and mention ways they can renew their involvement with your organization. For mid-level donors who gave recently, highlight the progress of the campaign they donated to and thank them for helping you get closer to your goal.
Use these additional tips to personalize your thank-you emails even more:
- Address donors by their preferred name in subject lines and the body of emails.
- Mention their specific donation amount, which campaigns they supported, and other relevant factors like if the gift was matched by an employer.
- Thank donors for any recent involvement, such as event attendance or volunteering.
Then, use donor engagement analytics like email open and click-through rates to evaluate the success of your personalization strategies and adjust your approach as needed. If donors aren’t opening your emails, for example, try changing your subject lines or email cadence.
2. Appreciation eCards
If you usually send thank-you cards through the mail, consider switching to digital cards to save on production and distribution costs. Online greeting cards, or eCards, are a less expensive option that retains the personalization and thoughtfulness of printed greeting cards.
Your nonprofit can easily create your own branded eCard designs and send them directly to donors to show your appreciation. eCardWidget’s guide to eCards for nonprofits emphasizes these key benefits of using eCards to thank donors:
- Low cost: Sending cards virtually means you can skip out on the costs of printing and postage. Plus, some eCard platforms offer completely free plans that allow you to design and send a certain number of eCards. Upgrading your plan to send a larger number of cards is still low-cost compared to direct mail.
- Convenience: Intuitive platforms make it easy to design, send, and personalize eCards. You can send them via email, text, or social media, and supporters receive them immediately. You can even add a custom personal message to each individual donor.
- Customization options: You can create multiple thank-you card designs, add your nonprofit’s logo and branding, and even add animations to your eCards. These customization options give you the flexibility to create different thank-you cards for specific campaigns and donor segments to make the messages more impactful.
- Environmentally conscious: Switching from paper to digital thank-you cards cuts down on paper and plastic waste, reducing your nonprofit’s environmental footprint.
If you see success in adding eCards to your donor appreciation strategy, you can even consider expanding their capabilities for your nonprofit down the road. eCards can also be effective as donation appeals, event invitations, and building community with your supporters.
3. Public recognition
Privately thanking supporters is crucial for cultivating relationships, but public recognition can be even more impactful when done well. Not to mention that recognizing donors using your existing communication channels comes at no extra cost to your nonprofit!
Take the following opportunities to publicly thank donors in addition to thanking them via email or eCards:
- Shout out individual donors on social media or in your newsletter. Select one supporter to highlight each month. Ask them to send a photo, and conduct a short phone or video interview to get quotes about their experience with your nonprofit.
- Recognize donors at events. Kwala’s donor communications guide suggests personally recognizing donors at fundraising events. At in-person events, you can verbally recognize a major donor or sponsor who made the event possible. For virtual events, consider using any existing online event software to show names on screen as attendees make donations.
- Create a virtual donor recognition wall on your website. Adding a page to your website just for donor appreciation can make an impact on both current and prospective supporters. A virtual recognition wall publicly shows how much you value your supporters.
When using these or other public recognition methods, remember to always ask for permission beforehand. Some donors may not want to be in the spotlight, and it’s important to respect their wishes and show them appreciation in other ways.
4. Lists in your annual report
Annual reports are optional, public documents that communicate to donors how your nonprofit has managed its finances and put donations to use throughout the year. While publishing annual reports isn’t mandated by the IRS like it is for the Form 990, it is a good practice that promotes financial transparency and cultivates donors’ trust.
Along with disclosing your financial activities, you can use your annual report to thank donors for their support throughout the year. Many nonprofits devote part of their annual reports to listing donors by name.
Depending on the size of your organization, it may be feasible to list every donor. If not, determine eligibility criteria, such as only listing donors who gave above a certain amount. You can also include different sections of the list for in-kind donors, corporate sponsors, and major donors. Respect those who wish to remain anonymous by listing Anonymous as one name at the beginning or end of your donor list.
Annual reports don’t have to be expensive to create, either. Instead of mailing out multi-page reports, consider creating a digital PDF and publishing it on your website. Increase visibility by emailing it directly to supporters and highlighting parts of the report on social media.
With these methods, you’ll be able to create a robust donor appreciation strategy and cut down on costs. Make sure to list donor appreciation efforts as a planned expense in your nonprofit’s next operational budget so you have sufficient funds set aside. Then, calculate how much you can save compared to last year and put those funds to use elsewhere.