Why Manners Matter

November 15, 2022

Why Manners Matter

“Please” and “thank you” are some of the first words we learn as children. These “magic” words are the building blocks of proper etiquette and good manners.

Good manners are always appreciated by others, but for nonprofits, they are essential — especially the “THANK YOU!”

Nonprofits that appropriately show appreciation to their donors and volunteers — those who make their mission possible through gifts of time, talents and treasure — are more likely to raise as much money as they need. Without showing that appreciation, they often won’t succeed in the long run, because they’ll struggle to retain those donors and volunteers over time.

Research estimates that it costs ten times more to acquire a new donor than to keep a current one. From a financial standpoint, it’s much more cost-effective to retain your existing donors than to acquire new ones. So, ask your team — “Are we thanking our supporters enough for all they do for our organization?”

Put yourself in the shoes of your donor. You have a cause that is near and dear to your heart. The organization has asked you in multiple ways to please make a gift to support the work they are doing. You do, and you are thrilled that you have been able to engage in having a positive impact on your community. Then, a week or even two passes, and no one in that organization has acknowledged your gift. Unfortunately, a whole month goes by as you anxiously wait to hear from the organization expressing their gratitude. But still, nothing has happened. It leaves you wondering, did they receive my gift? Did they need it? How was it used? Do they even care that I donated? Should I ever give to them again?

Dr. Adrian Sargeant, a noted author, researcher and subject matter expert, surveyed why donors stop giving. He found that 5% of one-time donors thought the charity didn’t need them, 9% had no memory of supporting, 13% never got thanked for donating, and 8% never heard how the organization used their gifts. Although some reasons are certainly out of your control, the ones listed above are within every charity’s control. Here’s the complete breakdown:

  • 5% thought the charity did not need them
  • 8% got no information about how the organization used their gifts
  • 9% had no memory of supporting
  • 13% never got thanked for donating
  • 16% passed away
  • 18% thought the charity had poor service or communication
  • 36% believed others were more deserving
  • 54% could no longer afford to give

As a valued charity, you can avoid many of these issues with simple and timely “thank you” communications.

Six Fundamentals of an Effective Thank You Process

Besides being basic good manners, when appropriately done, thanking donors can actually encourage and nurture future donations and the donor’s continued involvement with your organization.

  1. Make the thank you prompt.  When donors receive a prompt thank you, it reaffirms that they made the right decision to give to your organization. They feel appreciated and are more likely to give again.
  1. Make it authentic and personal.  Donors don’t want to feel like ATMs. Giving is very personal to them, and they want it to be meaningful to your organization as well. So, don’t forget to add the human touch. Utilizing relevant details will help make your donor feel a personal connection to your organization.
  1. Emphasize the impact they made.  Donors don’t give to your organization — they give through it to accomplish something important to them. Telling and showing them what their gift accomplished is not the end of a transaction, but the beginning of a bigger stewardship conversation. Consider developing a thank you track that includes additional information about your organization through welcome packets, newsletters and other promotional resources.
  1. Make it special.  In the digital era, there’s something extra special about handwritten notes. A handwritten note will stand out in a mailbox, and donors are happy to receive something more personal.Notes can come from anyone in your organization at any time. For instance, you can have your board members write letters to all new donors. Have kids from camp create cards with a special donor thank you. Or, simply let your donors know you are thinking about them by sending Christmas or other relevant holiday cards.
  1. Invite donors in.  Invite the donor to tour your programs. Donors feel closer to your organization and more part of your team when they see firsthand how their gifts are put into action. Provide an “insider’s view” and show them the great things that happen behind the scenes.
  1. Hug Your Hundreds.  Every donor, big or small, deserves your respect, appreciation and consideration. Still, it is vital to your organization to focus particular attention on donors who are on track to be committed, transformational mid-level donors — typically those who give $100 or more as their first gift.Our extensive research found that donors who had an initial gift of less than $20 only had a 0.1% chance of upgrading their support to $500+ over a 10-year giving period. In comparison, donors who gave an initial gift of $100+ were 80 times more likely to upgrade to a $500+ gift.Essentially, these $100 first-time donors have exceptional potential to upgrade the value of their gifts, give again and become dedicated supporters of your mission. And because they are better prospects for retention, these $100 donors are fully capable of enhancing their lifetime value to your organization.These higher-level first-time donors care deeply about your organizations and the work you do every day. By nurturing personal relationships with these donors, you will form lasting connections that transcend impulse or one-time giving.

Manners matter.

The essential building blocks of proper etiquette and good manners begin with the simplicity of “please” and “thank you.” Please don’t forget the importance of these powerful words as you develop and deliver your donor communications!