Asking for another donation in a thank you receipt can be an effective fundraising technique, if done right. Andrew Rogers explains some ways to approach this soft ask.

Asking for another donation in a thank you receipt can be an effective fundraising technique, if done right. Andrew Rogers explains some ways to approach this soft ask.

Tagging along at the end of the campaign calendar, the humble receipt package is often an afterthought to the more glamorous appeal letter or online strategy. But a receipt doesn’t have to be a mere acknowledgement of a transaction. One fundamental – if perhaps counterintuitive – technique can turn your thank you note into the Cinderella of your mail schedule, both strengthening your relationship with your donor and improving your bottom line.

That technique is asking for a second gift in your receipt package.

At first glance, it may strike you as pushy or even ungrateful to ask a donor for another gift at the same time you’re thanking them for their previous one. But, so long as you remember that the primary purpose of a thank you letter is to thank, a soft ask as a secondary focus of your letter actually makes a lot of sense.

That’s because of the special focus of a thank you note.

An appeal letter is about need. The donor’s ability to meet the need or solve the problem through their giving is vital to the message, but the emotional core of the appeal is an unmet need.

The thank you note is different. Now your focus is truly on the donor. You are honouring their generosity, vision, even heroism by taking action in support of the goal you both share. Of course, it’s possible to take this too far – I once saw a thank you note that read, “I was moved to tears of gratitude by your gift of $5”.

Science says it feels good to give

Donors like to give. That’s a key insight, and it’s backed up by science. On her Nonprofit Marketing Blog, Katya Andresen recently cited research findings that, “certain activities trigger dopamine, making us feel good. We feel pleasure when we eat, drink and reproduce. Also when we do drugs, gamble, learn, exercise and … yes, give to charity”.

A well-executed thank you note reminds the donor of the happy buzz they get from supporting your cause – and gives them the chance to trigger those feelings anew by giving again. But does it work?

Jeff Brooks, a colleague of mine at TrueSense Marketing who also runs the Future Fundraising Now blog, notes some organisations have derived as much as 10% of their total fundraising revenue from receipt gifts. One client, a nationally-known American charity helping sick kids and their families, routinely gets about a 5% response to its thank you notes.

The practice is also good for the long-term health of your file. That same national charity has seen its second gift conversion rates increase since it began asking for gifts in its receipts. Mark Jacobson of Direct Response Solutions sums it up: “Statistics show that donors making follow-up gifts via an acknowledgement mailing are among the easiest to subsequently renew and keep involved.”

How to frame the ask

So, what does a request for a gift in a thank you note look like? It may be easiest when you have a definite goal or deadline. Thank the donor for their generosity, and for understanding the seriousness of the need, then add:

But there are still so many people who need our help. If you can give another gift of $80, that will feed 20 more people, and bring us that much closer to our goal of providing meals for 1,000 of our hungry and homeless neighbours this Christmas.

If you are serving an ongoing cause, then a broader ask is in order:

In the effort to defeat breast cancer, every moment and every dollar count. I know you agree. Your continued support will carry that effort forward and bring us closer to a cure. Can you give another gift today?

If you’re still not convinced, you can begin by testing the inclusion of a reply device with your receipt. Mention it in your P.S., like this:

If you wish to give another gift to help train guide dogs for visually-impaired children, I’ve enclosed a reply form for your convenience. Thank you again for your kindness.

By the way, it’s best to ask the donor to give the same amount they gave previously in receipt asks.

Fundraising is a tool for allowing donors to build the world they want to live in, or at least to support a worthy cause. Including a request for a gift in your thank you note is an easy and effective way to help them do exactly that.

Do you risk annoying a handful of donors? Maybe. But if you remember that the first job of a thank you note is to express your gratitude for the donor’s generosity and remind them of the good they’re doing by supporting your cause, most donors will understand, and some will take advantage of the opportunity you’re giving them.

Then, thank them again.