Say thank-you: How not to disappoint your corporate donors

How not to disappoint your corporate donors

Something is better than nothing when it comes to building relationships with any donor, but that extra something can pay off especially well with corporate donors. When dealing with corporate donors, a plan is not a “nice-to-have,” it is a MUST. No matter the size or capacity of your organization, a plan is possible. 


How Phil became a disappointed donor, and what we learned from it

As a certified B Corp, we are committed to giving a percentage of our annual profit to a not-for-profit we choose, as a team, at the end of each fiscal year. This time around, we were so proud and excited to support a non-qualified donee, local to where the majority of our staff live, in Montreal, Quebec. This organization’s mission aligns perfectly with our values, so we made a large donation (for a small company like ours). 

We included a personal note and our CEO’s business card with our cheque so the organization could keep in touch with us if they ever needed support down the line. We waited half a year to hear from them. We got no thank you, no nothing. They cashed our check and our short-lived relationship was over. 

As a team, we felt disconnected and uncertain that we made the “right” choice for where to spend our precious dollars. After this disappointing experience, we felt guarded. We learned that the bar for an engaging and valuable donor experience must be raised. We also learned how important it is to establish a relationship with the organization before making a donation, something we’ll most definitely do for future annual philanthropic contributions. 


Why corporate donor stewardship matters

In the last year, corporations gave over $20 billion to not-for-profit organizations. And yet, corporate donors are not only a source of revenue for greater social impact, they also offer an opportunity for partnership that not-for-profits can use to leverage their expertise, resources, and networks. These kinds of partnerships will widen the networks of local, small not-for-profits, leading to more effective and sustainable solutions. 

Following up with a corporate donor means you can start that partnership. After a company’s first donation to your organization, ask them to get involved. Here are a couple of ideas to explore and implement if it aligns with your organization:

  • Invite the company’s employees to volunteer for your not-for-profit. Especially if you’re in need of a trusted board member, invite someone from the team to come on board. 
  • Inform them about your not-for-profit’s donor matching program: 1 in 3 donors say they’d give a larger gift if they knew it would be matched and doubled. 

Once you solidify that great experience for the donors you already have, then bringing in new donors will be infectious—humans want to feel connected and appreciated, and seeing a not-for-profit provide that to donors will only attract more and more and more. 


5 Key principles for building strong and lasting relationships with donors

1) Say thank you right away

A corporate donor just gave to your organization. That team is feeling fulfilled and heartwarmed, yet might be a bit nervous about making the decision. Reinforce their choice to support your cause by saying thank you right away. This is a low effort, high reward strategy for donor retention.

2) Don’t be shy

Your corporate donor may be feeling vulnerable after spending any amount of money on philanthropy: be vulnerable with them in return. Welcome them into your “home” by asking if they want to be added to your mailing list, follow you on social media, or (as I said before) become a volunteer. Whatever you offer, explain the value it will have for them so it’s not seen as a burden. 

Don’t stop there. Go beyond saying thank you, and follow up later, but not too much later, to ask for another gift. Again, don’t be shy. Donors want to help you succeed, so why not ask for additional gifts that will help your team go the extra mile? Especially important is to keep articulating the impact of their donations: show how each dollar is leading to great outcomes. Donors will want to continue riding that feeling of doing good for a cause they care about—their generous gift is making a difference. Say it with us, “repeat donors are loyal donors.” 

That being said, any follow-up, even if you are too shy to ask for a direct ask, is encouraged. Send the company something interesting about a new initiative brewing at your organization, for instance.

3) Encourage the company to be proud of their contributions

Once a company gives and you’ve thanked them personally, ask if they want to be thanked publicly. With their consent, giving them a shoutout on social media or listing their company name on your website will enhance that sense of pride in your not-for-profit and forge an even stronger relationship. Ask them if they are willing to post something on their social media, website or newsletter about why they chose to support you. That visibility can even be worth more than the monetary donation depending on the size of their network and strength of their reputation.

4) Get to know your donor personally (it’s easier than you think, and it’s extremely important!)

A detailed donor survey isn’t in the cards for your not-for-profit? No problem. Research the company’s website and or their social media profile(s). Find out about their team: go to the LinkedIn bio of the CEO— mother of two? Dog lover? Note that in your CRM system, whether it’s a simple excel spreadsheet or a CRM platform, Phil can help guide you through that process of donor data development and hygiene. The more personal you can get, the more your donor will connect with your organization and your cause.

5) Give a tour of your organization

Depending on the gift, invite the company to see where the magic happens. Remember to always be respectful of beneficiaries and whether or not they’d want to tell their story to donors when they are taking a tour. Do not make a spectacle of your beneficiaries in order to play on donors emotions. 

The bottom line is: have a plan

Whether it’s a checklist or a full-fledged donor journey, put it in writing and designate a person on your team to commit a day to it at least once a month, ideally once a week. Oh, and start with a thank you, please! 

Don’t forget that we want you to succeed and retain as many donors as possible. Reach out to us today and let’s get you started on your plan.