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Donor Thank You’s: 5 Simple Things to Do to Cause Deeper Engagement With Your Supporters

By June 11, 2014September 15th, 2015Donor Engagement

At a recent workshop with MnSCU (Minnesota State Colleges & Universities) Foundation I talked about the role of staff & board leadership in creating memorable and positive moments of engagement with supporters. You know, that really good feeling that people get when they are thanked or recognized or reminded of something they did to support your good work. Something that makes them feel good.

Those simple moments of engagement and donor thanking can cause a spurt of such intense good feelings your brain has a reaction like a spurt of energy. It’s actually a spurt of dopamine in your brain’s pleasure center. If you don’t know dopamine by reputation, it is like the brain’s “reward drug.” Pavolov’s dogs had salivation bells. Humans have dopamine. It rewards us and makes us happy.

One of the attendees, Mary, from the Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College Foundation shared this thought during the session: “We, in the fundraising field are all Dopamine Disbursement Specialists!” I love the phrase!


I spend a lot of time at my desk. You too?

I’ve noticed I keep things on my desk that make me smile, feel good about my contributions of time or dollars…and in turn that feeling often causes me to give again.

These small reminders are usually simple things like thank you notes, postcards with inspiring photos, annual reports with amazing stories, and of course my favorite: The MPR coffee mug! When I look at those items I am reminded why I am committed to to each organization. Nearly every day.

So the question today: How often or how deeply do your supporters (volunteers, clients & their families, and certainly financial donors) think about your organization in between visits, fundraising events, or asks for money? How often do you update your donor thank you plan?

Do you have a “dopamine disbursement” plan?


Here are 5 simple acts (that cost little to nothing!) that you and your team can take throughout the year to make your donor thank you’s cause deeper engagement:

1. In the letter or note card use a photo or photos showing who my gift will affect.

2. Use color on your thank you letter or note card.

3. Have a client draw a picture (children are especially good at this!) or draft a short thank you note to be used for everyone who makes a contribution for one campaign.

4. Have your board members make a simple, short thank you call to all of your first-time donors. (This has been known to increase the donors 2nd gift by nearly 40%!)

5. Send your colorful, picture-laden thank you QUICKLY! The sooner the better. Speed matters when thanking.



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