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Why You Should Mail Thank You Letters to Online Donors

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Online Donors Still Love Thank You Letters by Mail
Why You Should Mail Thank You Letters to Online Donors

Courtesy Poofytoo.com

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Do you send a thank you letter by mail after receiving a donation online?

Of course, the donor who gives online (and there are more of them all the time), does receive an immediate emailed thank you. That is built into the online donation system, whichever one you use.

But, here's the catch. That emailed thank you just isn't enough. You need to also mail another, more fully developed thank you letter to really make your donor feel appreciated.

Making a Memory

Ludis Herrera, Manager of Development Operations at Boston Medical Center, in a discussion on LinkedIn said, "At BMC, we have a generic email sent out to our donors immediately after an online donation is made (this would be the receipt). This way our donors feel secure that their donation went through the website. However, we do send a paper acknowledgement as well in the mail to show our thanks and to make it more personable....Other organizations might see this as a waste of paper, but our donors appreciate it."

Yes, snail mail is often maligned these days, but who doesn't look forward to going to the mailbox? A mailed thank you letter is likely to be saved, put up on the fridge, or given a special place on the bulletin board. It "sticks" in a way that an emailed thank you just doesn't. This is especially true for first time givers.

TheDirectMailMan.com newsletter recently summed up the best advice from Mal Warwick, the guru of direct mail, in Tips for Converting First Time Donors. Warwick, based on long experience, believes that between one third to one half of your first time donors will never donate again.

Guess who is giving online? First time donors. A recent Blackbaud study of multi-channel fundraising found that new donors often make their first gift online. Unfortunately, these donors have the highest attrition rates. They don't come back.

The good news is that if you can get that first time donor to give once more, it improves the chances of making him or her a committed donor to your cause.

Thanking the donor, by mail, is your best shot at making this conversion. Include a special welcome packet with it, and you're gone a long way to getting a second donation.

When Is the Donation Large Enough to Trigger a Mailed Thank You?

If you just cannot afford this much thanking right off the bat, consider giving the royal treatment to those who give more than the minimum. Warwick suggests that donors of $50 or more have the highest conversion rate. I suspect that some very large charities do use a larger amount as a trigger for a mailed thank you, given the sheer volume of online donations that they receive.

However, if you can do it, I suggest you mail even small donors a thank you letter. This may be even more important for small nonprofits that need as much traction as they can get. Sometimes donors start small to test the waters and then move up to larger amounts when they feel properly appreciated. Marc A. Pitman, in his DVD, Ask Without Fear, tells the story of just such a donor. She gave several small gifts to test the charity and then dropped a big check on them when she was satisfied.

Multichannel Fundraising Appeals Include the Thank You Letter

Although there is much written about multichannel fundraising, not much has been written about multichannel thanking. But we do know that often recipients of direct mail solicitations end up giving online. This means that they are open to mail. The online giving is more a matter of convenience. Just because they give online doesn't mean that a mailed thank you won't be appreciated.

Are you thanking your online donors with a mailed thank you in addition to the online one? If not, consider doing it. I give small amounts to many charities as part of my research on fundraising best practices. When I give online, sometimes I get a mailed thank you but often not. Plus, all too often that mailed thank you comes after a long wait. I recently got a mailed thank you letter after giving online, but it came almost two months later. I was not impressed.

Here are 10 Tips for Writing a Winning Thank You Letter. Check out these examples of thank you letters, and examples of email thank yous.

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  6. Online Donors Still Love Thank You Letters by Mail

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