Make Online Donors Feel Special Seconds After Donating

by Steven Shattuck on November 21, 2016

In his book Retention Fundraising, Roger Craver shares the results of a survey of 250 nonprofits. He asked those nonprofit’s most loyal donors to rank, by order of importance, 32 drivers of donor commitment. Here were the top seven:

  • Donor perceives your organization to be effective in trying to achieve its mission.
  • Donor knows what to expect from your organization with each interaction.
  • Donor receives timely a thank you.
  • Donor receives opportunities to make his or her views known.
  • Donor is given the feeling that he or she is part of an important cause.
  • Donor feels his or her involvement is appreciated.
  • Donor receives information showing who is being helped.

An effective gift acknowledgement strategy follows all seven of these key drivers of donor commitment. In fact, organizations with high donor retention rates prioritize communicating the above to current donors over acquiring new donors.

For donors who give online, you don’t have to wait until the formal thank you letter by mail to communicate your endless appreciation, the impact the gift will make, and your welcoming of feedback.

There are two places where you already automatically communicate to donors which represent an amazing opportunity to make your donors smile before anything ever hits their mailbox. They are: the donation confirmation webpage and the automatic email confirmation.

A few quick tweaks to both can make them infinitely more impactful, and set the stage for stewardship going forward.

The Donation Confirmation Webpage

Sometimes called the “thank you” page, this is the page on your website that appears or the donor is redirected to immediately after they click “donate.”

At a bare minimum, it should communicate that the donation was processed successfully and say thank you. But beyond that, it’s first an excellent opportunity to communicate the impact the donor’s gift will make, or tell a story of how previous gifts have been impactful.

Secondly, it should preview future communications. Remember: donors like to know what to expect from each interaction. So tell them what comes next: an email, a thank you letter in the mail, your email newsletter, whatever that next thing is.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it should give the donor something to do next. You’ve spent time, money and energy to get them to your website, so why not keep them there? Give them a video to watch, an article to read, or upcoming events to peruse. Send them to your social media channels, or sign up for volunteer opportunities. The point is, don’t just leave them hanging. If you don’t suggest something, all they can do is close your website - and you’ll just have to reacquire them.

The example below does a pretty good job of saying thank you and telling what comes next, but not communicating impact or giving the donor something to do:

Remember, this is the first thing a donor sees after they make a donation, so don’t sleep on it!

The Email Confirmation

While they are looking at your confirmation page, hopefully an email is hitting their inbox.

So often, these emails are simply receipts with no thought given to making the donor feel special.

Give a special consideration to:

  • An eye-catching, non-transactional subject line (avoid “confirmation” or “receipt”)
  • Avoiding role-based sender email addresses like info@ or donate@, etc. (have it come from a person!)
  • Using a donor-centric tone (less “we” words than “you” words)
  • Beginning with a personal greeting
  • Thanking the donor
  • Specifically communicating impact (how will donation be used, how have others been used)
  • Previewing future communications
  • Giving donor something to do next

As with the confirmation page, if you don’t give them something to do next, all they can do is archive the email. In a manner of seconds, you are completely gone from their thoughts.

You can see that the example below, in addition to coming from a logo instead of a person, doesn’t do much to make the donor feel like their gift is an investment.

Instead of:

Dear Steven,

Thank you for your gift of $ 5.00 to our organization.  The advancements we have made can be attributed in many ways to people like you who have generously supported our mission.  We are grateful for your generosity and hope that you will take great pride in the important difference that your gift makes.

What if it read:

Dear Steven,

Thank you for your kind gift. It’s already being put to good work building a healthier community. Our 12 facility centers and 3 program centers serve more than 200,000 people; people like (tell a real story of impact here). We are grateful for your generosity and look forward to tell you more about all the work made possible by your kind gift throughout the coming year. Be on the lookout for… (whatever you send next). In the mean time… (direct donor to social media, back to your website or to a survey link).

Now that you’ve immediately put a smile on your donor’s face, you can re-emphasize your appreciation in your formal gift acknowledgement and perhaps move them to a second meaningful interaction.

For more ideas, check out my 19-Point Donation Acknowledgement Email Checklist and 21 Ideas For Your Nonprofit’s Donation Confirmation Page

Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang. In addition to leading the sales and marketing teams, he curates our blog, administers our weekly educational webinar series and hosts Bloomerang TV, a weekly video podcast that interviews fundraisers and consultants in the nonprofit sector. Steven got his start in the nonprofit sector producing fundraising videos and other digital content for organizations like Butler University, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the Domestic Violence Network, the Adoption Support Center, the American Heart Association and CICOA. In 2015, he co-founded Launch Cause, a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping emerging nonprofit organizations enhance the impact of their work through collaborative office space, shared services, educational programming and networking with other nonprofit professionals. As a HubSpot Certified inbound marketer, Steven is a contributor to NTEN, Nonprofit Hub, Ragan, Social Media Today, Search Engine Journal, The Build Network, Technorati, Content Marketing Institute, Conductor and Business2Community. He is a frequent conference speaker and webinar presenter.
Recipient of the David Letterman Scholarship, Steven graduated with honors from Ball State University in 2006 with a degree in Telecommunications and Creative Writing. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife and son.