Thanking your donors regularly is a vital part of running a successful nonprofit fundraising campaign. You must show your donors that their donations are needed and appreciated, otherwise they will stop giving. Maybe not immediately. But over time your donor base will dwindle if you don’t show your thanks. Saying thank you doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming.
Donors who are active in the nonprofit world and passionate about philanthropy receive multiple thank you letters each year. As a nonprofit, showing your thanks and appreciation in ways that are memorable and fun helps you stand out from the crowd.
From automated thank you messages to handwritten cards, I’ve got fifteen ways to show your appreciation for your donors.
When should you thank your donors?
Literally all the time.
I believe that more is more. Donors should receive a thank you for every single donation they make. Recurring, yearly, special event, and one-off donations all demand a thank you of some kind. It’s also appropriate to thank your long-term donors on the anniversary of their first gift, at holidays, after the completion of major projects or outreach efforts, and at any other time you can think of.
Most importantly, your thank yous should never include an ask for another donation. Asking for money at every turn is a surefire way to push your donors away. Instead use this opportunity for donor cultivation and engagement. Offer other ways your donors might get involved or provide updates on the work your nonprofit is doing. Or just reach out and have a conversation to get some updates on your donors’ lives.
With that out of the way, here are fifteen creative and easy ways to thank your donors!
The most traditional way to thank donors is with a thank you letter. Handwritten or typed, these letters should always be signed by a board member or director. Thank you letters should be personalized with at least the donors name and donation amount. Take it to the next level by mentioning exactly what their donation was used for and how their dollars have made a difference.
Another classic thank you comes in the form of a phone call. Call your donors up and thank them personally for their donation. You can even make a day of it by running a Phone-A-Thon. This is especially useful after large events when there are many donors to thank. Get your staff together with some volunteers and spend an afternoon calling everyone who made a donation during your last fundraising push or event.
Automatic Thank You Emails for Online Donations
This one should be a no-brainer for nonprofits wanting to keep pace with today’s technological landscape. Setting up automated thank you emails after every online donation is a small way to show your donors that you appreciate their gift. As with written letters, these emails should be personalized with the donor’s name and donation amount.
Welcome Packages For New Donors
Welcome packages are an awesome way to show new donors that you appreciate their support. Put together baskets of locally-sourced products or gift cards from local businesses. Get these items donated when you can. This is an awesome way for local businesses to gain a little extra exposure and for your donors to feel welcomed by the larger community. Include a short letter welcoming your brand new donor and giving them information about how they can get involved in other ways. Don’t forget to personalize it.
A Page on Your Website
Create a page on your website for honoring your donors. Profile your major and minor donors alike. Switch the page out weekly or biweekly to highlight as many donors as possible. Alternatively, highlight your organization's recent projects or outreach efforts with a list of the donors who made your work possible.
Profile Donors in Direct Mail Marketing
Another classic. Create direct mail pieces that highlight both your major and minor donors. Write a profile of your donor or do a short interview. Include how they got into giving and why they choose to contribute to your organization. Touch on how their donation has made your work possible.
Thank You Videos
A great option for the technologically savvy nonprofit, creating short videos to thank your donors puts a new spin on the traditional thank you. Shoot video where your work takes place. If your organization works with animals, show your donors the animals. If your organization just built a playground, show that playground.
There is no better way to show your donors how their dollars are being used than to take them out there where the work is happening.
Send personalized anniversary cards when your donors reach their giving anniversary. This is a simple and easy way to show your donors that you value their long-term commitment and you aren’t going to slack off on your communication over time.
Social Media Posts
For those nonprofits with a strong social media presence, highlighting and thanking donors on social media is a great way to thank people publicly and get the word out about your organization at the same time. These posts don’t have to be long and complicated. Provide a short profile on the donor, a link to their social media account (if applicable), and a short story about how their donation helped your organization make a difference.
Handwritten or Hand Drawn Cards From Beneficiaries
This is a cute and fun way to connect your donors to the people who benefit from their generosity. Have them write thank you cards to your donor explaining how they have benefited from the work your organization does. If your beneficiaries are children, have them draw pictures instead of writing cards. This puts a person on the other end of the donor/organization relationship and helps your donor connect more tangibly to the work you do.
Photo Albums/Photo Book
Put together small photo albums or books during major projects, outreach efforts, and throughout the year. Send these out to your donors as a way of thanking them for the donations that make your work possible. Your donors are likely to place these books on their coffee table where they can be reminded of their connection to your nonprofit.
In Your Annual Report
Including a section in your annual report that highlights your donors and thanks them by name is a great way to get your community and board to see the people behind the donations.
A Personal Visit
This is a great option for your long-term and major donors. Pay them a visit or arrange a meeting a a cafe, park, or restaurant. Not for an ask, just to say hello and thank them for their years of contributions. Nothing says “we appreciate you” more than a face-to-face thank you .
Some organizations like to award plaques to their donors at events. This is a fun way to acknowledge the people who make your work possible. Honor more than just your largest donors. Many of my clients make it a habit to honor their youngest donor, oldest donor, or the donor who has been giving for the longest period of time.
Put it in Print
Take out an ad in your local paper to show your thanks to the entire community. You can mention many of your donors in a single ad. Try doing this once per quarter, listing the donors who gave during that period of time.
Donor Thank You Event
Throw a mid-year or end of year event to show your donors how much you appreciate them. This event doesn’t need to be lavish, but should give your donors time to mingle and connect with board members and staff. This is a great way to honor all of your donors together and celebrate all you have accomplished with their support.
What's your favorite way to thank your donors? Let me know in the comments.