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Tips for Making Authentic, Meaningful Thank You Calls

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., a time when we gather with our loved ones and pause to show gratitude for all that we have. While we’ve got giving thanks on our mind, I encourage you, fundraising professionals and nonprofit board members, to pick up the phone and give thanks to your donors.

I know in our “text message, Facebook update world” picking up the phone may seem outdated. What if I told you that thank you phone calls help raise MORE money? The impact of an authentic, meaningful voice-to-voice conversation, or even a thoughtful voice mail message is very real. Take a look at this graph that shows a significant increase when your board members take time to thank your donors for their first gift. The peer-to-peer call can make a huge difference.

Source: Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk & Cygnus Research

Source: Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk & Cygnus Research

That’s right next time the people who were thanked via phone were solicited, their gift was 39 percent more than the donors who did not receive a call.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, take a few minutes at your next board meeting or committee meeting to make your thank you calls together. Each board member can make 2 calls with information you’ve provided and make a terrific connection with one of your new supporters.

For the most impact make your thank you call within 3-5 days of receiving the contribution. Throughout the call, invite feedback and listen for why this person is financially supporting your organization. Keep good notes that can be entered into your donor tracking database.

Here are 7 more tips for meaningful thank you calls.

1. Use the person’s name. I know, really we have to tell our callers that? Don’t they already know? You’d be surprised what happens when your callers do this at home, alone. I often suggest doing calls like these in a group at a board meeting, development committee meeting or at a special “thank-a-thon” event.

2. Identify the callers’ relationship to your organization: board member, former board, long-time volunteer.

3. Say something about the recent gift: size, frequency, etc. Have this caller KNOW something REAL about the donor such as when they started giving, how long they’ve given.

4. Keep voice mail messages warm and short.

5. If it’s a voice to voice call, indicate early in the call that this is a call to say thank you. Nothing more.

6. If there is a willingness to talk for a moment have the caller tell something about a real person who has received services and how their life is different or better because of the work your organization does. One or two sentences is all.

7. OR if there is a willingness to talk for a moment ask a question about why the donor made their gift? An open-ended question that allows the caller to learn something new about this donor is invaluable.

As we near the end of our calendar year, please remember I am truly thankful for all the work you do for your organizations throughout the year!


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