Thanking Donors in Genuine Ways

Posted on 11/01/2023

Have you ever heard anyone complain about being thanked too much? Probably not. As we enter the season of gratitude, now is the perfect time to take a fresh look at how—and how often—you thank your annual donors. And it’s not too late to incorporate some new practices, leveraging technology, that will show donors this year how much you appreciate them.

But first, consider what makes a thank-you feel genuine. It’s a clear and simple expression of gratitude, perhaps with an example of impact. Many fundraising experts advocate for a “th-ask,” which means following up the thank-you with an immediate ask (or simply an opportunity to give) in what some call “stewardship pieces.” However, at Thanksgiving in particular, let your expression of gratitude stand on its own. Save the ask for the calendar year-end push.

Genuine messages of thanks are also personal. Simply using a first name in an email or text can go a long way. Keep your tone friendly and informal; avoid coming across as institutional or stuffy. For example, a video of a student or faculty member saying thanks doesn’t need to be super polished to feel heartfelt.

Here are 5 tips for thanking donors in a genuine way and showing them gratitude this season:

  1. Post a fun graphic or “card” on your social channels, letting your donors know you are grateful for them. It’s an easy way to add some warmth to these platforms, and to stand out from other posts asking followers to take an action.
  2. Send an email or text. This can be either a “one-to-one” or a “one-to-many” tactic. If the former, be ready to respond back if they do.
  3. Put a handwritten note in the mail. This is the least scalable and requires more lead time so that it arrives in a timely manner, but it will likely matter the most.
  4. Pay extra attention to “at-risk” donor segments such as first-time donors, lapsed donors, or donors acquired through special initiatives such as giving days, crowdfunding, or special challenges or premiums.
  5. Coordinate your efforts. If other offices or departments are planning to send something of their own, you’ll need to segment accordingly. Also, don’t assume another office is going to do anything. Take ownership to ensure donors get thanked.

While Thanksgiving is an important time to show your gratitude, donor appreciation is a critical component of a comprehensive annual giving program. When was the last time you refreshed your acknowledgement letters? Or reconsidered what giving threshold triggers a personal thank-you call or event invitation? Make a plan today to revisit those aspects of your program early in the new year. And Happy Thanksgiving!

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