Repeat Donations after a Thank You Letter – The Power of Love

Do donors come back if you thank them? Following up with donors can be time consuming. Does it pay off? Donations are valuable – and repeat donations mean that your donors are happy. Not only do you get multiple donations from that donor, but if they came back, that means they are more likely to tell their friends. So, can you get donors to come back by sending them Thank You letters? I analyzed some data from some ThriftCart users who had good follow-up letters around half their donors, but didn’t for the other half. The percent of donors who came back again after getting a thank-you within a year was about 15.5%. Those who didn’t get a thank-you e-mail only came back 12% of the time.  The 3.5 percentage point spread may not seem huge, but it’s cheap and easy to send to send thank-you e-mails. This data is based on e-mail follow-ups. I imagine that postal follow-ups would get better results.

Want to run some numbers? Every 100 thank-you’s will generate 3.5 repeat donors. Even if they come back only once more, that means you’ll get 3.5 extra donations. If you run a high-value pickup service, each pickup can average $250 in retail value. So, 3.5 extra donations means $875.00 in extra sales. Dividing that by the 100 letters you sent out, that’s an average of $8.75 extra for each letter sent. And that’s not counting the good will you generate and all the word-of-mouth to friends and neighbors.

Want an idea of the boost that thank-you letters might generate for referrals? I compared some data from stores that track how their donors heard about them. In the store that did no thank you letters, 9% of donors reported hearing about the pickup service from a friend. In the store that did thank you letters, the rate went up to 19%. That’s an even bigger boost than repeat donors. Furthermore, this effect will compound on itself, with the new referrals coming back again and telling their friends.

So, thank your donors – not just because it’s nice, but because they’ll appreciate your appreciation so much that they’ll come back and tell their friends.

The risk of using zipcodes as zones for donation pickups

In an effort to geographically cluster donation pickups, you need some sort of method to determine if pickups are close. However, there’s no trivial way to determine if 123 Fake St is close to other pickups, without stalling on the phone. So, a common grouping method is zip code. Everyone knows there own zip code, so it’s a good way to get an idea of the location that’s more refined than just the city name. But this comes with drawbacks.

  1. You could have two people living almost next door, but in different zip codes. There has to be a boundary somewhere. So, you may be sending your truck to within feet of a particular donor, but not know it because the zip code is different.
  2. Some zip codes have a very strange shape. For example, the Raleigh, NC zip code 27603 (click for map). The zip code starts in the downtown area, and continues in a fairly narrow strip down to the county line. Yikes. So, if someone says they live in 27603, they might be anywhere along there, and that’s a long drive!

ThriftCart’s donation pickup scheduling system addresses both these issues. First, when adding a new pickup, it gathers the address coordinates using MapQuest’s OpenStreetMap Nomination API, and compares it to the coordinates of all other future pickups. So, if two pickups are close – even if they are in different zip codes – it will tell you. Second, you can also set up zones based strictly on geography. So, you could make downtown a zone, the west-end of town a zone, the adjacent town and surrounding area another zone, and do that all without zip codes. Then, when someone gives their address, it will again get the coordinates and find the zone that it’s closest to. Now that should help you geographically cluster your pickups on a given day so that you save fuel, save driver time, and can pick up more donations on a single day.

Should you promise a time frame to your donor?

Here’s a question for you: when you are on the phone initially scheduling a donation pickup, do you promise a time frame to the potential donor? That is, do you tell them “We’ll be there on the 10th during the afternoon”? Or do you tell them “We’ll be there on the 10th some time during the day”? There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

The primary advantage of promising a time frame during scheduling is better donor relations. The more you work around your donor, the happier they will be, and the more they will donate and recommend you to their friends.

The primary advantage of not promising a time frame is that you can pick the very best by sorting all pickups for the entire day. If you promise time frames, you might find that you’re on both ends of town multiple times during the same day. If you don’t promise time frames, you can just do a single optimized run through your area.

The question of donor relations versus fuel savings is largely dependent on the nature of your organization. Here are some thoughts.

  1. If you have a small geography, the additional cost of fuel will be minimal if you have to cross town a couple times. If you have a big coverage area, the cost might be much higher.
  2. If you don’t promise time frames, you can do your routing the afternoon before. Then you’ll know where each donor is on the list, and during your reminder call you can give a fairly good arrival time estimate.
  3. If you do promise time frames, you can help minimize driving by setting up zones. Break your area into multiple zones. Make sure each zone is covered in each time frame on different days of the week. So, zone 4 might be Monday AM, Tuesday PM, Wednesday PM, and Thursday AM. That way, you can still cluster your pickups.

ThriftCart’s donation pickup scheduling system can deal with time frame promises, or allow you to rearrange your pickups throughout the day. It also lets you set up zones as an excellent way to cluster pickups on a given day.

Did you know...
ThriftCart's pickup scheduling system can save you fuel with for your donation pickup program by prompting you about nearby future pickups. This will geographically cluster the pickups on a given day. ThriftCart's pickup scheduling system can save you fuel by automatically routing your pickups in the optimal order. ThriftCart also respects promises that you have made your donors by keeping pickups within their designated timeblock, if you decide to promise your donors a pickup in a given time range. ThriftCart's donation pickup scheduling system helps you avoid donors forgetting their pickups with reminder call prompts. ThriftCart runs in the cloud. That means that ThriftCart can be used anywhere you have a computer with internet access. ThriftCart's point-of-sale system lets you post your interesting inventory in real-time to your web page. That will increase foot traffic, brand awareness, donations, and sales. ThriftCart's donation pickup scheduling can integrate with your website, so that when someone fills out your pickup request form on your website, the information transfers into the system.

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