With nearly one-third of all charitable contributions occurring during the holidays, the most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest for your nonprofit. There’s no better time to show your thanks to your donors than the holiday season, a time centered around generosity and giving back.
Even outside of the holiday season, donor appreciation is an essential part of any advocacy campaign. It’s a necessary tactic for boosting retention, which is important to guarantee a strong start for your nonprofit in the new calendar year.
Your appreciation messages should make your supporters feel special. To achieve this, your thank-you notes must be sincere, unique, and personalized. These donor appreciation strategies will set you apart from other nonprofits and make your donors remember you:
- Make a year-in-review video
- Send special seasons greetings communications
- Throw a donor appreciation celebration
Let’s first explore a few donor appreciation essentials to keep in mind as you build your year-end gratitude strategy.
Donor Appreciation Essentials
No matter how you express gratitude, you should always consider the following best practices when thanking your donors and volunteers:
- Thank all donors. Your donors probably won’t donate again if they feel underappreciated. So, show your gratitude to every donor, regardless of how much they donated. You might segment your communications to send different messages to different tiers of donors, but remember to include everyone.
- Summarize the goals you achieved with data: At the end of a campaign, remember to recap the goals you achieved with donors’ help in your thank-you messages. This will show your nonprofit can get results. A great place to do this is in your annual report, where you can emphasize how impactful the gifts were.
- Make it personal: The point of donor appreciation is to make your supporters feel special and to build deeper personal connections with them. The last thing your donor wants to read in an appreciation letter is a cookie-cutter response that makes no effort to further engage them. According to Fundraising Letters, even doing something as simple as sending them a hand-written thank-you letter will show donors the care and effort you put into thanking them.
- Be timely: You should aim to send personalized thank-you messages within one week of the donation. Some forms of communication, such as direct mail, will take longer to send than email, so remember to factor in this information when creating your outreach schedule.
- Stay organized: Having proper nonprofit data hygiene practices is necessary to get your thank-you messages to the right people at the right time. Consider supplementing and updating donor information regularly to keep your data as accurate as possible.
To achieve long-term success, collect feedback from donors so you know what’s working and what needs improvement in your donor appreciation program. It’s important to get external feedback, and your supporters have an insider perspective about what to change or keep doing. As long as you keep the focus on the donor, you’ll come across as grateful and build valuable connections you can leverage in the future.
Now that you know the basics, let’s explore some strategies for showing thanks.
Make a year-in-review video
To engage the most donors possible with your appreciation efforts, it’s important to produce a variety of content that appeals to different audiences. While some donors prefer direct mail or reading your annual report, video provides a unique opportunity to communicate across language barriers and education levels.
Many nonprofits and companies have branched out into video by producing year-in-review content. This video is a compilation of everything your nonprofit accomplished in the calendar year while highlighting beneficiary stories. The end-of-year time is perfect to release this kind of content on your website and social media platforms.
Writing emails is one thing, but you might not have this type of content-production experience. Fortunately, a nonprofit digital marketing agency can help you plan, produce, and share your year-in-review video. They have a unique perspective on how to market nonprofits online, so they can do the heavy lifting for beginners.
Send special season’s greetings communications
Your donors will expect to hear from you over email or direct mail, but what might surprise them are unique themed messages for the holiday season.
Adding season’s greetings and references to the holiday seasons to your thank-you correspondence will likely catch supporters’ attention. Here are some ways you can customize your appreciation direct mail and emails to be special for the holiday season:
- Use themed graphic design elements, such as snowflakes or holiday lights.
- Reference common holiday sayings, such as “let it snow.”
- Address holidays from all cultures celebrating in December.
Switching up your appreciation branding is just one more way to differentiate your donor appreciation messages from other nonprofits and emulate what the holidays are famous for: generosity and giving thanks.
Throw a donor appreciation celebration
The holidays are about togetherness, which provides you the perfect chance to organize your supporters and shower them with gratitude. Invite your donors to an exclusive end-of-year event celebrating the holiday season and the important work they’ve helped you accomplish. Here are some good formats for this type of event:
- Dinner or luncheon
- Winter wonderland carnival
- Holiday movie screening
- Holiday treat bakeoff
Whatever event you choose to run, consider inviting your beneficiaries so the donors can meet exactly who they’re supporting. It’s one thing to see a name on your website or even a photo on your social media, but actually meeting your beneficiaries will help your donors form deeper connections with them. This will empower them to support and spread the word about your cause in the new year.
If you’re nervous about juggling donor appreciation initiatives with the many other programs and events on your plate, consider working with a nonprofit digital marketing agency. According to Fifty & Fifty, a nonprofit digital marketing plan can help with organizing and sharing all of these donor thank-you materials and build stronger long-term relationships. These agencies will give you more bandwidth to boost your revenue from fundraising during the lucrative year-end period. Leveraging the holiday season to give thanks will make your donors feel valued and imbue your appreciation messages with some holiday magic.