The Ultimate Guide to Thank Your Donors

Most nonprofits are not good at saying thank you to their donors. This is a mistake. Thank you or stewardship is a critical part of the fundraising process. One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make is receiving a gift and disappearing until the next fundraising appeal.

Nonprofits should not only say thank you to their donors after receiving a gift. They should say thank you on a continual basis. Your donors deserve to be thanked. You should be intentional about thanking donors and have a plan to help you stay focused on stewardship all year long. So, how can you thank donors at least monthly?

Here is what you need to include in your nonprofit’s thank-you plan.

Automatic Thank You

When someone donates online, they generally receive an automatic email. This email primarily serves as an acknowledgment that the gift was received. To make sure it is a little less transactional customize the message to sound warm and personal.

If your nonprofit uses a third-party giving site, you should, if possible, customize the landing page. It should address the donor by name, with 2–3 sentences on how their donation will help, and a short video preferably from a client saying thank you.

These methods are just the beginning. You need to follow up with a personal thank-you call or handwritten note within 24 hours. I believe that regardless of the size of the gift every donor should receive a handwritten note.

Thank you call and mail

It is a good practice to thank a donor within 24 hours of receiving a gift. I know this can be challenging but you must carve out some time to thank your donors every time you receive a donation.

To help you systemize this you can get help from your clients and board members.

End each board meeting with members writing and signing thank you cards. The cards should not be personalized with a name. The goal is to have a stockpile of thank you notes on your desk ready for use. When ready to send the card simply add the Dear “Name” and sign next to the board member if you like. The same can be done for any cards done by clients.

If 24 hours with this system still seems challenging have designated board members make phone thank-you calls to donors. This will allow you a week to get out the handwritten thank you note.

Set up a system where you have a couple of board members on the thank you team. When a gift comes in email the board member with the donor’s name, donation amount, telephone number, and a script of what to say.

Here’s a sample phone script, that you can modify:

Hi, this is Sabrina Walker Hernandez, and I am a board member with Village in the Valley. I am calling to say thank you for your generous donation of $500. Because of you, we can continue to provide scholarships and community service projects to our neighbors. Through our community closet program, we have provided those who need it the most with clothing and we know more is needed, so we really appreciate your support.

The Ultimate Guide to Thank your donors

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where the plan comes into place: How do you thank your donors year-round with a goal of once a month?

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Create a first-time donor packet and use these tips for monthly recurring donors as well.
  • Send postcards or email messages during the holidays New Years’, Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Send a minimum of two gratitude messages a year by mail. Donors will more likely see those.
  • Communicate with your donors with an e-newsletter. Let them know their gift’s impact on your clients by sharing accomplishments and success stories. Designate one area in the newsletter where you list your donors and thank them for their support.
  • Use your cell phone to create a thank you video and share it on your thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.

For more ideas check out this ebook Say Thank You 26 Clever & Easy Ways to Say Thank You to Donors

I hope this helps. I’d love to hear how you are saying thank you to your donors. Sharing is caring.

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If you need a more personal strategy on how to thank your donors and get your nonprofit to the next level, schedule a 90-minute strategy call with me. We’ll talk through all your questions and craft a strategy that will bring you clarity on how to grow your nonprofit.

If you are a nonprofit professional or board member and want to learn from me and others, join the Nonprofit Professionals Exchange Facebook Group. You will find resources such as live coaching, interaction with other like-minded professionals, free fundraising platforms, and more!

Author’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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1 thought on “The Ultimate Guide to Thank Your Donors

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