Thanking Donors - be personal, authentic and invest (time)

Thanking Donors - be personal, authentic and invest (time)

24 March 2022

We were happy to meet again in person with a group of fundraisers after a long time at our conference on The Art of Thanking Donors on March 17th at the Comics Art Museum in Brussels. Jeroen Janssens, Isabel Penne and Helena Schalenbourg shared their inspirational and heartfelt experience on Thanking Donors.

Foto's conference 17 March

The speakers each emphasized the importance of donor centricity and relationship building. Let your communication be about the donor and the connection with the cause you work for, don't make it all about the organisation.

Some general advices we took from the conference are:

  1. Be authentic and sincere
  2. Make time to really listen to your donors
  3. Dare to invest in existing donors

First speaker up was Jeroen Janssens, a professional fundraiser since 2005, having worked for several international ngo's such as Oxfam, Amnesty International and Doctors of the World, he talked about the importance of thanking every donor. Because every donor counts.

A personal touch in one-to-many communication (via face-2-face, telemarketing, direct mail, ...) is important. And a performant CRM-system that is well nurtured is more than helpful. Most important is showing sincere gratitude, including our donors in your organisation and linking them to your cause. He also called for investing in your existing donors. Because they are worth it.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Next up was Isabel Penne, she has over 35 years of experience in friendraising and fundraising and is the president of the Fundraisers Alliance Belgium. 

Isabel strongly believes in the 5 I's from the Investment Cycle for her relationship building:

  1. Identify - Log as many details as possible about the donors (also present at an event, answered to a survey)
  2. Inform - Communicate as personalized as possible
  3. Interest - Make donors feel part of your organisation, show impact, invite them to events
  4. Involve - Ask for advice and you get money, ask for money and you get advice
  5. Invest - A strong thank you message can generate another gift

She concluded with a valuable quote by John F. Kennedy: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

"Offer the gift of your time, the present of your presence"

Helena Schalenbourg, part of Damien Foundation's legacy and major donor team, closed of the conference with her stories on relationships with major donors and testators.
She also emphasized the importance of a personal and sincere approach.

"Often very simple, and sometimes even time consuming ways of expressing gratitude are very much worth the investement", she insisted. She shared her experience going from a special phone call round during the COVID 19-lockdown, over personal hand-written Christmas cards, to some really concrete cases of personal relationship building with major donors and testators.

Her main tips for relationship building with major donors and testators are:

  1. Set boundaries
  2. Be authentic
  3. Take your time
  4. Listen, for real
  5. Law of attraction (positive thoughts and actions will bring you positive results)

Members of FAB can view the full presentations on the member extranet (login).