The Big Donor-Relationship Tool Too Many Nonprofits Ignore

Like many readers, I’m sure, I made a gift to a nonprofit on #GivingTuesday. I gave online, and then I quickly received the auto-response email to acknowledge my gift.

And that’s where the experience broke down.

The subject line was “Online Submission Confirmation.” That certainly didn’t make me feel valued. The email body copy referred to my “online entry” (sounds like I signed up for a sweepstakes) and stated that “The following information was recorded,” followed by my name, address, gift amount, etc.

I’m not picking on one nonprofit; I see this kinds of auto-response email regularly. And they all have the same problem—the email accomplishes nothing significant. Sure, I know my gift was received, but other than a “thank you very much” at the end of the text, I felt like a transactional customer, not a person who genuinely wanted to help solve the problem the nonprofit addresses. It can’t even be argued that it was strictly a tax receipt, since it lacked some of the required elements to be a legal receipt.

In short, it was an opportunity to connect with a donor—but it failed at being another stone on the donor-relationship path.

Your donors didn’t submit something. They didn’t make a purchase. They didn’t complete a transaction. And they didn’t enable your organization to do whatever it is you do. Instead, what they did is they helped saved a life. They changed the world. They preserved nature. They gave hope.

It’s Dec. 1. For many of you, you will receive more online donations in the next 30 days than you will most of the rest of the year. So, I’m firing this warning shot across your bow. Right now, get a copy of your online gift auto-response. (Make a $10 online donation if you have to; it’s that important.)

Read it, beginning with the subject line. How do you feel? Are you excited about the fact that you just invested your hard-earned money in the cause? Are you proud that you made a choice to support that organization? Or are you just in possession of a document that may or may not be useful when you complete your income taxes?

If your auto-response is sorely in need of attention, here are some things to get your “I want our donors to fall in love with us all over again” creative juices flowing:

Subject lines:

  • Wow! You just did something great!
  • Our kids are cheering for you
  • You gave—and that is truly wonderful
  • Here’s what you are making possible
  • Your life-changing gift was received

Opening copy before gift details:

  • We’ve received your donation, which is going to make a tremendous difference for families. Thanks for making sure they will have enough to eat this winter. You are truly their hero!
  • If he could, Tom would love to tell you “thank you,” because your generosity means he is receiving the medical care he needs. On his behalf, and for all the other people who will visit our clinic tomorrow, we’re honored to let you know how much your gift is appreciated.
  • Want to make the world a better place? You just did! Your gift to XYZ Organization means trees are being planted—and that’s good for all of us!

Too over-the-top for you? OK, but what about your donors? What do they want to hear? What will make them honestly feel they made a smart decision when they gave? That’s what your auto-response for an online gift needs to convey. Yes, it’s just an email, but it is also one person telling another person that he or she is truly remarkable.

This old dog knows how much you have to do before the end of the year. But take a few minutes to make your auto-response totally donor-focused—and help your donors fall in love with you all over again.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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