How Often Should Your Nonprofit Thank Monthly Donors?
Getting Beyond the Receipt
People often ask if it's important to thank a recurring donor every single month. The answer depends on how they gave in the first place.
When the Monthly Donation Comes Through Offline Methods.
I always recommend sending an immediate snail-mail thank you letter when someone becomes a recurring donor offline, perhaps through direct mail, telemarketing, face to face, or TV. But don't send another thank you letter every month after that first contact. That's just too much and it will likely turn your donor from love to annoyance.
Besides, it costs money to send a thank you via snail mail and that defeats the purpose of having someone join as a recurring donor. Just don't neglect to send a tax receipt in January for all his gifts so he'll have it for his records. And, of course, you should always thank monthly donors in your annual appeal letter, recognizing them as special.
Online Monthly Donor Receipts: Make them Personal
A thank you email is typically generated automatically each time the donation is made monthly online by credit card.
Send a snail-mail letter to thank him for joining your monthly giving program anyway, even though your online donor gets an email receipt. Online donors appreciate having a mailed letter just as much as anyone else. And keep in mind that he might not even see the email. Also send the year-end tax receipt via snail mail—and email—in January.
About Those Receipts
Although it's likely that an email receipt will be issued every month when the donor's contribution is made, you don't want to just sent the same receipt over and over and over again. Make an extra effort to program different thank you receipts. If programming 12 different receipts is too much, at least program six and alternate them.
You're certainly not making these donors feel special if you keep sending the same standard receipt month after month. Plus, they'll barely register with your donors. They might not feel that they've been thanked at all. A receipt is certainly not the same as a thank you.
I like PayPal and Network for Good for their ease of use for monthly donors, but their email receipts are quite humdrum. You might not even be able to change the messages in the "off the shelf" versions of these services. Here's an example of an email receipt from PayPal:
You sent an automatic payment
Hello e waasdorp,
You sent an automatice payment to Marstons Mills Public Library, Inc. Here are the details:
To: Marston Mills Public Library, Inc
Customer service URL: http://www.xxxxx
Customer service email: email@example.com
Customer service phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Automatic payment details:
You might also want to think carefully before you trust your monthly giving program to a third party processor. Purchase the premium plans if possible so you control your messages. If you can't do that, you can try a few other things.
There's a simple solution that doesn't take too much time or extra resources and it will make a world of difference to the monthly donor you're trying to keep and upgrade to higher contribution levels. You should already have coded these monthly donors in your email list or CRM software as a particular segment. If not, start doing this as soon as possible! You'll benefit from it in the short and long run.
Create a Unique Newsletter
Create a unique variation of your email newsletter to include a thank you to your monthly donor. You're probably sending out an email newsletter or message to your donors at least once a month. If so, create a slight variation of the email introduction, perhaps something like this:
Thank you for being such a great member of the Circle of Friends (fill in name of your monthly giving group). You make a difference to the many people (animals) etc. we serve (fill in specifics).Thanks to you we're able to have the funds to… (fill in specifics).
You've just told your monthly donor how special she is to your organization and the difference her gifts have made. Now proceed with the rest of your newsletter. Do not repeat the amount and the date of his gift but focus on the fact that he's such a loyal donor to your organization. Tell him he's truly special! You should be able to do this in the first few lines of your email newsletter.
This gives your monthly donor that "special feeling" and it's not a lot of extra work on your part. What time of the month you send that email is also less important.
If you get feedback and testimonials from your monthly donors, don't hesitate to use them. People love hearing from other donors confirming that they made the right decision to join your monthly giving program.
Send at Least 4 Special Emails
I highly recommend that you do at least four different thank you emails to your monthly donors during the year if you aren't yet sending a regular email newsletter. Remember that the monthly receipt will hardly be noticed but your monthly donors will likely pay attention to these special thank you notes.
They don't have to be very long or elaborate, just personal and appreciative. Many organizations tend to change up their snail mail thank you letters once a quarter depending on their annual fund schedule, so just make a simple email variation and work in a reference to being a monthly donor.
Try to use what you already have in place and make small tweaks that accommodate your monthly donors to keep things straightforward and manageable. It's so important to treat this particular group of people super special. You'll continue to benefit from these donors month after month for many years to come.
Erica Waasdorp is my go-to resource whenever I have a question about monthly giving. She is the author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.