Freaky Fast Gratitude Lessons from Jimmy John’s
From Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President, BDI
The Jimmy John’s Franchise is an American sandwich fast food restaurant chain that has amassed more than 2,800 locations over its 35 years, and they continue to grow the business year-after-year.
My colleagues at BDI know I’m a JJ’s fan. While the sandwiches are pretty awesome, the reason I’m a frequent customer is because they deliver value in the form of a more precious commodity than just a tasty meal – they save me time – making good on their core brand promises to “deliver your order the way you want it delivered, freaky fast.” Trust me, I’ve tested JJ’s across the nation. They are truly logistical masters of delivering a consistent product, the correct order, and precisely on time.
While mauling my usual #11 Country Club sandwich, it occurred to me that my love for JJ’s spawns from many of the same best practices that contribute to elevating donors’ relationships and affinity with their favorite nonprofit ministry.
In my prior life, I had the privilege of serving as an executive for several donor-supported, faith-first nonprofit organizations. In each, marketing, communications, and fundraising fell to my team’s responsibility. And in each, one of our “secret weapons” was our donor appreciation strategy.
Truth be told, there was little magic to the “how” of our approach; it just required a prioritization of the philosophy that thanking our donors was a core value, and a commitment to flawless execution – which is a lot like the magic behind Jimmy John’s success.
Later, in an agency serving many nonprofit organizations, we commissioned a broad study that confirmed that wildly successful (and lucrative) gratitude strategies contain most, if not all, of the following ingredients, making up a delicious and timely meal. Together, these practices measurably lifted donor response and delivered higher relational satisfaction.
- Be Freaky Fast: There is a direct and powerful impact to being thanked right away after giving a gift. Physical (mail) donor gift receipts and appreciation notes should land in-home no later than one week after receiving and processing the gift. How important is this? Thank you notes that included another opportunity to give and were received in less than 7 days were twice as likely to inspire an additional turnaround gift. And, the second gift amounts averaged 50% more when the appreciation was timely. Gifts given via digital platforms should trigger e-receipts with thanks and an additional appeal in no more than 48 hours – ideally within 24 hours.
- Have a Diverse Menu: Positive experiences inspire and promote additional positive engagement and loyalty. As such, thank your donors every time – differently. Your best supporters are paying close attention to your messages and are more likely to give more than once in a calendar month. If you’re only using one gift receipt confirmation template and don’t update it with a new, bespoke thank you message each month – fix that first. Take this to the next level by preparing as many as three thank you messages per month, so that each time your supporter gives they receive both confirmation of your gratitude and additional news of the impact of their gift. Finally, always provide reason and opportunity to give again. Yes, even on the third “thank you!”
- Be Authentic to Your Brand: We have an obligation to receipt for gifts. But let’s not ever allow the donor experience to seem transactional. After all, your ministry is all about the cause and your heart’s desire to change lives. As such, put as much energy into the thank you messaging as you do to your appeals for support. The message must include evidence of ministry vision, purpose, your capacity to help, and an opportunity to do even more if you receive greater donor support (a conditional proposition). Remember, the thank you communication is also an appeal opportunity for the next gift.
- Connect One-on-One: It is a huge mistake to slip into the habit of communicating with an organizational tone and as if you’re addressing your donors en masse. As such, especially in your thank you messaging, be sure to adopt a “from me to you” versus “from us to you all” narrative positioning. Jimmy John’s includes both the customer’s name and driver’s name on each receipt, and thanks you by name upon delivery. Should we do any less?
- Confirm the Specific “Order”: Another common error that I see too often is the generic donation receipt that makes no use of variable data (custom data points inserted into the text), and is simply too lazy to offer more defined information about a gift’s use than “your gift will allow us to do more good stuff.” C’mon folks. Be respectful of a gift of any amount and the donor’s heart to help. In your gift receipts and thank you communication, acknowledge the amount of the gift, the history (if any) of giving, and how specifically the gift will assist in serving others. Even if the gift is undesignated to a specific purpose or project, identify some compelling, transformational work that’s being accomplished because of donor support. Give back to the supporter your affirmation that their sacrificial contribution is every bit as important and influential to the ministry’s outcomes as the work being done in the field.
In the commonplace process of ordering lunch from a slick operation like Jimmy John’s, we see elegant and value-based strategy executed to perfection that has developed brand loyalty, transactional satisfaction, increased repeat engagement, and promoted voluntary endorsement to others. All by “delivering a sandwich – on time.”
As we honor our donor’s partnership and seek to release greater generosity, we can increase our odds for success through these simple, if not always easy, steps in our gratitude strategy. Doing so all but guarantees fundraising lift – freaky fast.
Thank you, friend, for your attention here and for your dedication to fueling the work of your ministry by allowing others like me to share. It’s my honor to run alongside you as you serve others.
Finally, I’ll leave you with one more recommendation. Check out this terrific feature recently published by Harvard Medical School, citing research that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” I knew it!
Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family and your ministry!
For more specific strategies on expanding your digital platforms and reaching your online donors, check out these resources from our weekly BDI QuickShot:
Michael J. Tomlinson, President and CEO
Michael Tomlinson, better known as “MT,” is the President and CEO of BDI. With more than 25 years of executive leadership in business development and media, MT’s expertise involves leading organizations like Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk and Dunham+Company in the ideation and execution of successful integrated marketing, broadcast and digital media, and fundraising strategies that fuel growth.
As BDI’s President, MT leads the strategic direction, ensuring that the agency is equipped with the talent, tools, and technologies to effectively serve clients long-term by reaching and cultivating loyal, heart-connected, and generous financial donors.