Think of creative ways to thank donors and build relationships.

4 Creative Ways to Thank Donors on Their Anniversary

Mckenna Bailey

When we talk about growing your nonprofit, we often talk about donor relationships. The truth is, they are simply relationships. It is a connection that you build, over time, with people who not only care about the same mission you do, but are also deeply invested in your success. So invested, in fact, that they give money, resources and time to make sure you reach your goals. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. 

Just like all the other relationships you have in your life, milestones should be celebrated. First gifts, anniversaries and achievements all need to be acknowledged in order for your donor to feel appreciated and connected. 

Unlike other relationships in your life, however, there are hundreds and thousands of donors, and only one of you. Each donor craves a relationship that is personal and full of communication. But you rarely have time to call or write to them, even on the big days. All is not hopeless, though. With a little creativity (and a few smart tools) you can make sure no anniversary goes uncelebrated. 

The Case for Getting Creative to Thank Donors

Right now, you might be looking at your list of to-dos, thinking about all the late nights you’ve spent catching up on your inbox, only to arrive at work the next day to a few dozen new emails. The thought of adding something else to your plate seems exhausting and physically impossible. But there’s a reason why we’re encouraging you to prioritize creative ways to thank your donors: it moves you closer to your fundraising goals. 

The tasks that contribute to your feeling of burnout usually don’t make a big enough impact on the big picture to make you feel accomplished at the end of the day. Entering names, filing receipts and switching between tools to pull a simple report, these are all necessary tasks, but they are often too far removed from the greater good to be fulfilling. 

Bonding with donors over anniversaries and other milestones is different. For you, it reignites passion on hard days and inspires new ideas to reach your goals. For them, it fosters a sense of loyalty and inclusion that inspires bigger and more frequent generosity. Generic messaging or irrelevant information won’t do that. 

In the era of digital and personalized marketing, your donors expect to feel catered to. When anniversaries and other milestones pass without custom communications from your nonprofit, they feel unappreciated and overlooked. Give yourself the advantage by prioritizing creative, personalized thank yous for donors. The effort will push you closer to your fundraising goals, while also making your day a little bit more fun. 

4 Creative Ways to Thank Donors on Their Anniversary

With all that said, we wouldn’t suggest ideas that couldn’t be done with automated tasks and a few intelligent tools. Each of our 5 ideas can be done without adding hours of work to your plate. 

1. Get Creative About the Past

Most nonprofit CRMs hold data about every interaction you’ve had with each of your donors. It’s a treasure trove of information to help you create a personalized thank you. Use that data to add details to their anniversary letter. Small details are just as important as the big ones when you’re trying to make someone feel important. 

Rather than use this opportunity to highlight what your nonprofit has done in the last year, illustrate what you have done together in a story. Show images of what you were doing as an organization on their birthday. Highlight any progress that was made on a particular project they’ve expressed interest in. Mention any new additions from the last year to your community that are in your donor’s social network. Give them an idea of just how far their generosity went over the last twelve months. 

Creatively telling the story of last year will blow your donors away and make them feel seen. We suggest creating a report that pulls all the important details from your CRM and uploading the information into an email template, as you would with a mail merge. It’s a task you can do at the beginning of every month so you know you won’t miss a single anniversary. 

2. Personalize Their Impact on Your Nonprofit

When someone chooses to donate to your nonprofit, part of that decision is because they like you. Whether it’s the people who work at your organization or your approach to the problem, something specific about you motivated their generosity. Use that to your advantage when you’re sending an anniversary message. 

Again, use the data hosted in your donor management system to find out who they’ve talked to throughout the year and what they’ve talked about. See if they’ve attended events or speeches featuring your nonprofit. And then, tell them how much that meant to you. Acknowledging the non-monetary giving that your donors contributed to make them feel extra special and important to your nonprofit. Smaller nonprofits can even create personalized videos for their donors if you want! 

3. Create an Experience for Them 

A perfect way to surprise and delight your donors on their anniversary is to make it a complete creative experience. Don’t choose between an email or a hand-written letter. Do both. If you’ve collected their social media channels, use it to send a personal direct message. If you have a newsletter that you send to your entire contact list, include a section where you list the names of donors with anniversaries that week. 

There is no limit to the ways you can show your appreciation and the more places donors experience your gratitude, the more authentic it will feel to them. Remember, you’re not the only email or direct mail piece they’ll receive that day. The more varied your approach is to celebrating their anniversary, the more likely they are to see it and feel special because of it 

4. Get the Entire Team Involved

A common practice for nonprofits is to assign a rep to each donor who can maintain the relationship and grow generosity. This makes sense, especially as your donor base grows. But when it comes time to celebrate anniversaries, try a different approach and include the entire organization. 

This works especially well with our second point of communicating their impact on your organization itself. Send communication from different departments and different seniority levels. You want to make it obvious that their generosity, regardless of size, goes a long way in your nonprofit and in the world. 

Split up the communications based on channel. The personal, hand-written note should come from the person they’re most familiar with, but other departments can collaborate on a sequence of emails. Maybe your senior-level employees can send social media messages. The details don’t matter as much as the fact that so many people express their gratitude. 

Tools to Help You Execute Creative Ways to Thank Donors

Getting a campaign like this off the ground is much easier with a map for your team to follow. We created a content mapping spreadsheet to help you easily understand what you need to send engaging, personalized thank you notes (plus other impactful content). Download it to get started today!

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