As we embark upon a new year, now can be an especially meaningful time to check in with your organization’s past donors.

Why now? You might have sent a year-end solicitation or holiday card at the end of 2016. You, and everyone else out there. The end of the year can feel harried and overwhelming, and there is enormous competition to grab donors’ attention during the year-end giving rush. Checking in with your donors in January just to update them – not to ask for anything, but to thank them and tell them about the months or year ahead – enables you to connect with them at a time beyond the holiday rush, when they can pause and pay attention.

Many nonprofits feel overwhelmed at the prospect of putting together a comprehensive report or presentation for current donors. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

  • You do not need to create a slick, sophisticated update. Sometimes, a simple email will do the trick.
  • You do not need to spend hours composing the perfect cover note. Bullet points will do the trick.
  • You do not need to compile endless, comprehensive statistics about the year that has just passed. You could just share a few numbers: participation numbers, fundraising numbers, number of clients, or whatever else fits your mission.

Here are 8 simple, impactful things you can include in a January donor update:

  1. Thank you!: Thank the recipient your January update, even if they did not make a gift to your organization in the past year. If they are on your list, they have made a gift, volunteered, read an update, or otherwise shown interest at some point.
  2. Top three favorite moments of 2016: Were there client interactions, unusual stories, accomplishments, events, or other moments that inspired you in 2016? If so, share them. These do not have to be monumental encounters – perhaps just a moment with a client, a great piece of mail that you received, a small (or large) victory, or something your organization finally checked off the to-do list.
  3. Three things to look forward to in 2017: Are there five items, great or small, that your organization will undertake in 2017? Five goals? Five new endeavors? Five data points for which you are reaching?
  4. Tell a story: Can you tell the story of one specific person, place, or thing of note from 2016? One way in which your organization made an impact?
  5. Make a (simple) graphic: Your word processing software has incredibly simple tools to make a graph, a pie chart, etc. You do not need to spend hours formatting a complex infographic. Just one, simple, easy-to-assemble image will appeal to those readers who learn and remember things visually.
  6. A picture tells a thousand words: Can you include one photograph of your organization in action? If that does not seem to fit your organization’s work, you can use an artfully angled screen shot of a bunch of Tweets, a photo of people laughing during a staff meeting, or a shot of your logo on a piece of paper with a handwritten note from you below it. You can also check out sites like Pexels or Pixabay for terrific, free stock photos.
  7. Let’s get social: If this is an email update, be sure to include links to your web site, Twitter feed, Facebook page, or whatever other online presence your organization uses. Encourage readers to both stay in touch with you and share your work with their networks.
  8. Call to action – maybe: This update does not have to be the time to ask for something more. It’s a way of saying thank you and keeping your donors and “organizational friends” engaged. But, you might want to suggest a way for them to do more, if they wish. Is there a petition you would like them to sign? A Facebook page you hope they will like? An event for which you want them to save the date? Feel free to ask them to take a low-investment next step.

You can never say thank you too often. Remember how busy you were in December? The people on your list were just as busy. Now is the time to reach out and update them, putting you on the road to strong ties with your donors, supporters, and friends in 2017.