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How to Thank your Donors

My friend Jennifer Stauss Windrum has been watching her mom die slowly from lung cancer. It’s been heartbreaking to watch Jennifer’s videos on socialcam, read her FB updates, and look at her photos on Instagram documenting the last few days of her mom’s life. This disease has crushed Jennifer and her entire family, not to mention the pain her own mom has been going through for the past four years, and especially now as she nears the end of her life. Inspired and frustrated by her mom’s illness, Jennifer launched an amazing organization called WTF Lung Cancer to raise awareness about the lack of funding for lung cancer. Recently she also launched a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign on Start Some Good to raise $35K to produce the SMAC (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer) line she created so that people living with cancer can take a “buddy” along for comfort to cancer treatments, tests, and hospital stays.

“Cancer can be a lonely existence. My mom lives 1,200 miles away, making all of her cancer tests & treatments that much harder for both of us.

This is why I created SMAC! -- to give Mom a “buddy” she could hug to remind her that I am with her,” said Jennifer.

Over the past couple of weeks, Jennifer has worked tirelessly to raise almost $20K. Despite being with her mom 24/7, and going through so much heartache and exhaustion, Jennifer has showered her donors with love by thanking them personally via email, posting on their FB wall and in FB groups, tweeting them, etc. She is constantly connected to her donors and always extremely grateful. A lot of nonprofits can learn valuable lessons from Jennifer about how to shower your donors with love by personally thanking them. It's worth noting that Jennifer is just a one person shop. Imagine how far your thank you messages could spread with coordinated fundraising and communications departmental efforts.

So back to my story. Tonight Gary Vaynerchuk, NYT best selling author, and “self-trained wine and social media expert” who also has almost 1 million followers on Twitter pledged $2K to the SMAC campaign. Jennifer mentioned to a few of us how moved she was by Gary's donation. Then out of pure instinct we immediately began thanking Gary personally via our own social media accounts, because we too were touched by Gary’s generosity. Garry immediately responded with a smile and I suspect he was quite surprised to see so many people other then Jennifer thanking him. I bet that made Gary feel pretty darn good. This is another valuable lesson that nonprofits can learn from this campaign – crowdsource your appreciation for your donors. Every organization has a core group of dedicated volunteers and board members that they could easily tap during big fundraising campaigns to crowdsource a simple thank you tweet.

So as you begin to enter year-end fundraising next month, remember that donors, just like everyone else in this world, want to be loved. Create an environment where your organization can really get to know your donors and shower them with love. Become their biggest fans.

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