Standing Out From the Crowd: First Impressions Matter

Does it feel like your nonprofit’s newsletters, emails, social media posts, and other communications get lost in the crowd? You share amazing stories and great information but is anyone even noticing? 

You’re right to wonder, as we’re all bombarded with the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data per day! So, how can your nonprofit stand out from the crowd? (Hint: It’s not about Facebook.) Instead of hoping to get noticed in the big ocean of what everyone else is doing, try some things that no one else is doing. 

Here are two simple suggestions to get you started. And take note: It’s all about first impressions.



Call your first time donors

Very few nonprofits make thank you calls to first-time donors. In fact, in their recent donor communications experiment, Bloomerang found that zero of fifty nonprofit organizations called to thank first-time donors on receiving their donation. What a lost opportunity! 

If you want your organization to make a really great first impression, have a board member make the thank you call. Research results from Penelope Burk show that donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making the gift, would donate 39% more the next time they were solicited (as compared to donors who did not receive the thank you call). 

Talk about measurable results! And the icing on the cake? You’ll be engaging your board in meaningful work.

Here’s a small step you can take right away…

Draft a thank-you script to help your callers feel comfortable and confident when making calls. Also provide a fact sheet about your nonprofit’s work and a few compelling stories that showcase the results donors love to hear about.

Send handwritten thank-you notes

In the Bloomerang experiment cited above, 34% of the nonprofits mailed an acknowledgment letter for a first-time online gift. Of this 34%, just 12% included a handwritten note. Thus, overall, 4% of the organizations included in the experiment sent a handwritten note.

Again, a wonderful opportunity for your nonprofit to stand out from the crowd! 

I can say from personal experience that a handwritten note can be impactful. At the end of last year, my husband and I donated to 10 nonprofits. Many were organizations we’ve supported in the past and some were brand new. Of those we supported, we received only one handwritten thank you note and it was from a nonprofit we hadn’t previously supported. AND, our donation was only $25! 

Needless to say I was impressed. My first thoughts as I read the note were, “Wow, they noticed and really care that we made a gift. Our gift seems to matter to this organization. We will definitely donate to them again, and next time will be a larger gift.” 

Nearly four months later, I still remember how that note made me feel and, conversely, I can’t even recall all nine of the other nonprofits we supported. (Sometimes it feels like we’re just one more tiny cog in the wheel of a giant organization’s fundraising machinery.)

Here’s a small step you can take right away…

Create a basic template for drafting and sending handwritten thank you notes. You can start each note with a similar message, e.g. “Thank you for your generous gift.” Then, simply add a personal sentence or two. No need to write a book; 2-4 sentences total is fine.

Calling your donors and sending handwritten notes are two ways to get noticed by your donors. You’ll stand out from the crowd, make an impact, and (super bonus) probably boost your donor retention rate because your donors will know that they matter to you. 

Special gift for you: My step-by-step guide, Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, is available here (click). 

What can you add from the perspective of a nonprofit or from a donor’s point of view? Please share in the Comments box below!