This blog will help you win loyal friends for your nonprofit organization. I'm Dennis Fischman, and I approved this message.

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20 Ways to Thank Your Donors Throughout the Year

If you’re a nonprofit, every day is Thanksgiving…or should be.

Yes, I know it’s been months since your end-of-year appeal.  You sent a thank-you letter to each donor back then.  (In fact, maybe you sent the ideal thank-you letter.)  But have you been ignoring them since then?

You do at your peril.  Donors notice when and how often you’re in touch.  If they say, “That organization only writes me when they want money!”, how likely are they to respond the next time?

Have you heard the rule that you should thank a donor seven times before asking him or her for money again?  Maybe you wondered how in the world you’re supposed to do that.  How many ways can you say thank you?

Here are 20 creative ideas for showing your gratitude, courtesy of our friends at Lifehack.

  1. Make a gift bag. It doesn’t have to be expensive–just personal.
  2. Give a toast. You don’t need a special event–you could do this over lunch. Make a video and send it to the donor.  Picture the smile when they see it!
  3. Write a poem. Say why they deserve your thanks.
  4. Send them custom gift labels.
  5. Give a gift card. (Get the gift card donated, too.)
  6. Send a hand-written letter.
  7. Use social media to give thanks in public.
  8. Make your own digital greeting card.
  9. Make a Youtube video.
  10. Bake cookies.
  11. Make surprise gifts for guests at your events.
  12. Put together a flower basket.
  13. Take a picture. Again, it doesn’t have to be professional, just unique.  The camera on your phone can capture priceless moments!
  14. Pay it forward.  Show them you care about what they care about too.
  15. Do something special for them.
  16. Help them when they’re the ones who need help.
  17. Be there for them.
  18. Listen to them.
  19. Say it another language…especially if they speak it.
  20. Show them some #donorlove, without being asked.

You can’t do all twenty for all your donors. Fine.  But which ones can you do?  Make a plan to say thank you to as many of your donors as you can, each month.  When annual appeal time comes around again, they’ll think of you as a friend.

How Do You Say “Content Marketing” in Nonprofit?

You’re working so hard for a cause you believe in.  You wonder: Why aren’t more people paying attention?

cute cat

Can your communications compete with this cat?

You’re not alone.  In the internet age, nonprofits and businesses are all in the same boat.  We’re not only competing with each other for people’s time and interest.  We’re also competing with online games, viral videos, and cute cat photos.

What did you do the last time a commercial appeared on your TV screen?  Chances are, you muted the volume or changed the channel…if you weren’t already using a tool to “zap” the commercials right out of what you were watching.

The people your nonprofit is trying to reach are just like you.  The ways that nonprofits usually try to reach people are even easier to ignore than commercials.  It’s so easy to delete your email, ignore your press release, toss that annual report or printed newsletter or appeal letter into the recycling bin.   Most people will do just that–IF they see your outreach as just another claim upon their time.

But what if they saw you as an answer to their prayers instead?


Giving People What They Want through Content Marketing

People don’t like to be interrupted.  They like to be helped.  If you want to be heard, you have to give people something they want, so that they are actually grateful to hear from you.  The term for this approach that puts the audience at the center is content marketing.

Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

(Substitute “nonprofits” for “businesses” and “supporters” for “customers, prospects, buyers.”  The strategy is the same: give people information that matters to them and you will draw them closer to your cause.)


What Do People Want?

To attract people’s attention, interest, and ultimately support, you must know what they want.  Not just guess: know.  Not just a general idea: you must know them in depth and in detail, like you know a good friend.  If you don’t know that yet, stop reading this blog and go find out.

Let’s say you have done your homework and you do really know your audience.  Here are a few ways you can give them information that will make them keep coming back to you.

  • Online tools.  Give your supporters a way to do something they couldn’t do before.  A real estate company might give prospects free access to the Multiple Listing Service.  An organization for low-income families might give potential donors and partners a way to calculate the minimum a family needs to get by in a specific town.  [What will your supporters use?]
  • Blogging. In a personal voice, tell stories and give behind-the-scenes information about something you know they care about.  [Will your readers quote you in conversations with friends?]
  • Training.  Be a guest speaker.  Hold workshops.  Do webinars.  Teach other people what you know that they want to learn, and gain their loyalty and respect.  [What does your organization know better than anyone else that other people would line up to learn?]
  • Curation.  This is the current term for finding useful content that other people have produced and sharing it with your supporters–through mail, email, or social media (including Youtube for sharing video).  The key is that it has to be useful to them.  [What will they put into practice right away?  What will they find valuable enough that they will forward, post, retweet, pin, or otherwise share it with others?]

You don’t have to do all of these content marketing.  Certainly not at the start.  Perhaps not ever.  You are who you are, and your supporters are who they are, and maybe there’s another approach that makes them sit up and pay attention.

What you have to do is to find that approach.  Until you find it, the cat videos win.