Seasoned fundraiser Daniel Clapin on why saying two simple words to your donors can be one of the most rewarding (and budget-friendly) gestures you’ll ever make.
One of the things Daniel Clapin, ACFRE learned years ago, he says, is the value of saying thank you to donors. “It always bewilders me when people don’t do it. How often has a charity ever called to thank you?”
A fundraiser with over 25 years of experience, Clapin is the executive director of the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre Foundation in Ottawa—and “thank you” has always played a major role in his work.
“Nothing is more bothersome to a donor than being inundated with six pieces of mail on a Friday afternoon. But if a friendly voice comes over the phone a few days after a gift is made, your organization’s envelope stands a chance,” he says.
We asked Clapin to share tips from his refined thank-you policy. Here’s what he said:
- Call every donor from $100 and up. “I’m not talking about somebody who has purchased a ticket for a gala. That’s a different kind of person. A donor is someone who has given without regard to the benefit,” says Clapin.
- Keep it simple. It’s important that the thank-you call is exactly that—a thank-you call. “Never ask or insinuate that the donor should give again,” he says. Some people may not want to carry on a long conversation, but you may also find yourself on the line with a chatterbox. “Don’t be stupid: chat!” Clapin says. “You can do subtle and intelligent mining in that conversation.”
- Be respectful and polite. It doesn’t always go without saying. Clapin says he often asks a volunteer or intern to make thank-you calls and provides a list with only the donors’ names and phone numbers. “That way, you are as respectful to the donor of $100 as you are to the president of a company who gave $5,000.”
- Keep track of your calls. Always update records when you’ve communicated with a donor, especially when you’ve called to say thank you. “Do an experiment with your data. In a climate of donor fatigue, you are more likely to retain donors who have been personally thanked.”
- Start today. “You should have no fear of when to say thank you,” Clapin advises. “You will never hear a donor say to you ‘don’t say thank you!’”
Clapin says creating a personal link is the best possible way to encourage sustainability. “At the root of charity, we have people responding to a cause worthy of their interest. It’s your responsibility to say thank you, and it’s the most inexpensive, tried-and-true form of fundraising.”