Donor Retention Tips: 5 Ways to Follow Up After An Auction

Nonprofit auctions have a reputation for engaging their participants—and not just the individuals who win auction items. From donors to event volunteers to corporate sponsors, these fundraisers bring your nonprofit’s entire community together to support its cause. 

To retain their support well beyond your event and cultivate deeper donor relationships, you’ll need to effectively follow up after your auction. Let’s explore five ways you can follow up to engage donors and retain their support.

Receipts and acknowledgments

Prompt follow-up is a cornerstone of meaningful appreciation. According to ClickBid’s silent auction planning guide, timeliness highlights your donors’ impact while the event is still fresh on their minds. 

Of course, your nonprofit should construct personalized, thorough thank-you messages after its auction. But before you employ your official appreciation strategies, send automated receipts to quickly confirm a donor’s gift. These receipts are also necessary for tax purposes so that donors can deduct their contributions. To do this, receipts must include the following:

  • The donor’s name
  • Your nonprofit’s name
  • The date the donation was made
  • A description of the item won
  • The item’s fair market value (FMV)
  • The total amount donated

While not required, you can also include your nonprofit’s logo and federal employer identification number (EIN) on the receipt. This reinforces that the receipt came from your nonprofit and that the gift benefitted your cause.

Thank-you messages

Think of donation receipts as a quick confirmation that you received the donor’s gift. They’re meant to solidify that the gift has been made but don’t suffice as a genuine message of appreciation. 

You’ll need to go further to share your gratitude. Here are a few ways you can send thank-you messages that resonate with donors:

  • Personalize the content. Use data from your CRM and other resources to craft personalized messages for each of your donors. This way, they’ll feel uniquely and individually appreciated by your organization. 
  • Offer inside information. Every item at your auction will be different, and including enticing background information can excite donors even more about their contribution. For example, a vintage vase may have been previously owned by a famous music artist and passed down in their family for several generations before ending up in your auction’s catalog. 
  • Use creative mediums. Donors likely receive several messages from your nonprofit each week, which is why your thank-you messages need to stand out. eCardWidget’s donor appreciation guide recommends creating eCards, thank-you videos, or even handwritten letters to creatively share your gratitude. 

Remember to adhere to donors’ preferred communication channels when sending thank-you messages. After all, your message won’t make an impact unless donors notice and open it!

Stewardship opportunities

After sending a thank-you message, continue strengthening your relationship with donors by offering other opportunities for them to get involved. For example, let’s say your auction was the kick-off event for your capital campaign. After the auction, donors might be inclined to stay involved through:

  • Major gifts: Encourage donors to increase their donations with major giving. Donors who are passionate about the purpose of your capital campaign may be willing to give in larger ways after your auction to further support your goal. 
  • Exclusive experiences: Usher donors into your nonprofit’s community by allowing them to be part of exclusive experiences. For example, if you’re building a new facility, allow auction item winners to tour the facility before it opens or meet with the campaign’s leaders to learn more about the project.
  • Other roles: Remind donors that their non-monetary support is also important for the campaign’s success. If they enjoyed your auction, perhaps they’d like to volunteer at your next one. Or, they may be interested in serving on your board. Donors will be relieved that your nonprofit doesn’t just want their money, and will feel invested in the organization when they take an active role in pushing its work forward.

Also, remind donors of available opportunities that don’t require them to do extra work. For example, you might automate certain fundraising processes, such as the ability to check their matching gift eligibility directly on your nonprofit’s donation page. This way, they can double their donation without having to increase the amount they give or change the process they go through to submit a gift. 

Impact updates

As time passes and donors move on to other involvement opportunities, keep them in the loop about the results of your recent auction. Provide progress reports, including any milestones reached or impact achieved so far, to show how their participation in your auction made a tangible difference.

To do this, consider sharing:

  • Internal discussions: Foster a culture of transparency by letting donors know what your nonprofit has been up to since the auction and how you’re using the funds raised. For example, if your auction raised funds for your capital campaign, share a summary of your most recent campaign report meeting.
  • Progress reports: Keep donors informed at every step of your project’s progress as it relates to the funds raised by your auction. Make a direct connection between their donations and your work to show the impact of their participation. 
  • Testimonials: Demonstrate your nonprofit’s impact from different perspectives by sharing testimonials from beneficiaries and volunteers. This shows donors that your nonprofit has put their contributions to good use and reinforces their confidence in your mission.

To provide detailed and accurate impact updates, you’ll need concrete data from your auction. Utilize silent auction software for your fundraiser to access all of the event’s data and metrics. These tools may even create reports for you to export an overview of the auction’s performance. Supplement that data with information about how you have used or plan to use the funds raised. 

Feedback collection

Don’t just talk to donors, but communicate with them to learn more about their experience with your auction. Leverage surveys, social media polls, and other feedback-gathering tools to ask important questions about your auction. 

When deciding which questions to ask, be sure to gather feedback about various aspects of your fundraiser. For example, ask how donors felt about the mobile bidding process or the variety of items offered at your auction. This provides a comprehensive overview of their preferences and perspectives, helping you improve future fundraising efforts and communications.

Additionally, asking for feedback shows donors that you value their opinions. This opens the gateway to stronger relationships based on mutual communication. 

If you need more help with the different aspects of your fundraising campaign and follow-up, consider reaching out to a nonprofit consultant. They specialize in various areas of nonprofit success, such as marketing and strategic planning, and can help your nonprofit master everything from campaign planning to donor stewardship.

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