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Don’t Disappoint. Properly Thank Your Donors.

thank your donors and avoid disappointing themIt’s time to revisit the topic of how to properly thank your donors.

I’ve attended and made financial contributions at five nonprofit fundraising events in the past four weeks. The good news: my guests and I received some inspiring, personal and speedy thank you’s.

I’m sad to report my guests and I have also been disappointed by the missing-in-action thanking we experienced.

Teaching nonprofit staff how to communicate to cause donors to be inspired to give again is my work and passion.

So, please remember, inspiring donors starts with the quality of donor thanking.

7 Ways to Thank Donors to Make Your Organization Stand Out

1. Surprising & Powerful: Quickly made warm thank you calls from a board member, client, or volunteer.

2. Special Recognition: First time donor thank you letters – say it right in the letter: Thank you for your first gift!

3. Special Recognition: Donors who are making a 2nd or 3rd gift THIS YEAR: Be sure you let them know you notice their multiple gifts and are grateful.

4. Special Recognition: Handwritten notes left on the seat before a performing arts event.

5. Meaningful: Personal notes at the bottom of the thank you letter.

6. Fun: Social media shout outs of photos of donors from your event

7. Unique & personal: A visit to the donors office or home to hand deliver a note of thanks.

And here’s some excellent advice from my friend and colleague Amy Eisenstein.

Amy Eisenstein5 Simple Ways to Thank Donors

1. Have a plan for thanking different donors
Does a $10 donor get treated the same as a $10,000 donor? I hope the answer is “no.” How is each one acknowledged? Do they get a phone call, an email, a letter, an acknowledgment in your newsletter?

2. Thank your donors in a timely fashion
Your goal should be within a week (direct mail studies say within 48 hours, but I think that is unrealistic). Do your higher-level donor letters take longer to get mailed because they sit on the director’s desk for a week waiting for a personal note?

Does a board or staff member call to thank the donor after receiving a gift? Studies show a thank you call from a board member within a week of receiving a gift has a significant impact on increased levels of future giving. Making thank you calls is a great way to get board members involved in the fundraising process.
thank your donors

3. Personalize and customize letters
The more personalized the better your future fundraising results will be. Do you have a specific letter for first time donors and another one for repeat donors? Do you acknowledge a $25 gift differently than a $5,000 gift?

4. Inform donors how their money was used
Keeping a donor informed about how their money was used is one of the most important ways to ensure future gifts, and yet so many nonprofits neglect this important step. Show them with individual client success stories. Tell them how many clients you served and what the impact was. Share with them the difference your work made in the community. Make sure to let them know that it would not have happened without their gift, no matter how small.

5. Invite donors to get involved in a specific way
In your letter, on the phone, or in person, be sure to thank your donors, but to also invite them to take action and become more involved. Can they volunteer in a direct service capacity, on a committee, or doing office work? Can they participate in a letter writing campaign?

Learn how to powerfully use storytelling in your donor thank you’s: There’s a spot waiting for you in the final Ignite Your Fundraising Results course of the year.


  • Max Harris says:

    Some really good suggestions there. For sending handwritten cards or notes you might want to check out (part of It lets you automate the process by integrating it with your existing donor software or other apps. Or we can help you with one-off projects and custom cards. And our handwriting looks great. You can go to to get a free sample.

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