By Sarah B Lange under Fundraising, Individual Donors, Stewardship - Donor Relations on December 18, 2019

I bet you remember the last time you received a really great thank you.

Maybe it was a beautiful handwritten note, or an unexpected public shout out on social media. Do you remember how it made you feel?  Warm and fuzzy, a bit inspired, motivated or excited?  Those are the feelings you want to inspire in your donors.

Research shows we need to thank our donors at least 7 times a year! Fortunately, saying “Thank You” can take many forms.  Here are some ideas as you say thank you to your donors:

1. HANDWRITTEN NOTE: In an age of email and text messages, a handwritten note carries even more meaning.  One of my favorite thank you notes I ever received from an organization was a simple DIY card with a photo of a program participant on the front. The content was heartfelt and truly reflected the culture of the organization. I felt truly valued to receive this personalized note. The personal touch makes a difference you’re your donors will notice!

2. SOCIAL MEDIA: Use the power of social media to highlight some of your more touching donor scenarios, whether it’s a photo of a local business office that brings a team to deliver a giant check, or an individual who arrives with a grocery bag of much-needed supplies. Whether you have photos of the donors themselves or just the fruits of their donation, post the photos and give social media shout outs. Don’t forget to tag and share so that the donor themselves see the post! They, in turn, will most likely share it via their social media, increasing your exposure.

3. PUBLIC THANK YOU: Use your newsletter and annual report to highlight donors, and/or create a Donor Wall at your organization, where lots of visitors and service recipients will see it. Some donor walls look complicated or expensive, but if you enlist your staff in some brainstorming, you’ll see that you can create some low-cost ways of celebrating your donors that fit your organization’s budget.

4. WELCOME PACKAGE: For first time donors, a small welcome package with a thank you note, a story or photos of the impact of their donation, and a small gift (like a book mark) can really make a donor feel appreciated and even more excited about your organization’s work. You can also set up a series of emails (otherwise known as a “drip campaign”) that your new donors receive over a series of weeks after they’ve made their donation. Research shows these people are quicker to give again, and at a higher level.

5. VIDEO: A good thank you video can go a long way. Acknowledge your donors’ gifts with a clear and simple thank you video at any time of year. A one minute “thank you” video will not only engage your donors, but it provides you with a way to publicly recognize them through social media and promote your organization to other potential supporters.  Make it more impactful by having your service recipients deliver the message. Don’t worry about equipment. Video technology has come so far that a smartphone can make a great video worth sharing. Don’t worry about editing, either – today’s donors don’t want a highly polished piece that’s been produced in a studio. Keep it short, so you can do it in one take.

6. IMPACT UPDATES: Make sure the donor knows how their donation was used. Donors like to see how their donation made an impact on the people you’re serving (because that’s who they want to help!). Give number breakdowns where applicable, be specific, give examples, and tell stories. The thank you note should be as thorough and heartfelt as the initial plea for support.

7. FROM THE SERVICE RECIPIENTS:  Whether you engage service recipients in making cards or take a big group photo holding a big “Thank You” sign, engaging your clients or constituents can be powerful for donors, and it helps engage your clients in what it takes to keep the organization and services running, which can be empowering for them. If you service children, hand drawn pictures and/or cards are particularly heartfelt.

8. PHONE CALLS: Doing a Thank-A-Thon is a great way to engage volunteers and board members.  Divide up a list of donors, and sit down and make phone calls just to say thank you.  It’s powerful to connect directly with individuals, and they’ll feel touched by the personal outreach.  Sometimes you even learn incredible stories of why they gave to your organization or cause.

9. DONOR CULTIVATION EVENT: A donor cultivation event is an intimate affair (I recommend 50-100 people, including board and key staff) that allows you to connect with your donors and to let them feel like part of group or movement.  This can take the shape of anything from a breakfast to a cocktail hour, and can be held on-site, at a board member’s home, a local restaurant, art venue, or event space.  Think about what would fit your organization’s capacity and budget. Be sure to put your board members and staff to work, meeting and speaking with your donors.

10. TOUR OR OPEN HOUSE: Let your donors see your work up close. Invite them in for a tour of your facility or an open house and see the impact of the work up close.  This can even involve a driving or walking tour, depending on the nature of your work.

At its core, fundraising is about relationships. As with any relationship, showing appreciation is central to continuing to grow and deepen the connection. I hope some of these ideas will help you connect more deeply with your donors this year!

Yours with mistletoe in my hair,


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