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December 3, 2021
How to Create a Thank You Plan
By Ann Green

Ann Green
Ann Green
You probably have a fundraising plan and maybe a donor relations plan, but it’s just as important to have a thank you plan since you should spend just as much time thanking your donors as you do raising funds.

Nonprofit organizations spend a lot of time on their fundraising campaigns, but treat thanking their donors as an afterthought. Creating a thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round. Donor retention rates keep plunging and some of the reasons are donors don’t feel appreciated and they only hear from nonprofits when the organizations are asking for money.

Here are some things to consider as you put together your thank you plan.

Plan to Thank Your Donors Right Away
Every donor, no matter how much they have given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

Try to thank your donors within 48 hours. This shouldn’t be hard to do. Carve out some time each day you get a donation and thank your donors.

Plan to Go Beyond Sending a Boring Thank You Letter
Instead of sending a generic thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Calling your donors to thank them is something your board can do. It’s often a welcome surprise and can raise retention rates among first-time donors.

Here’s where planning comes in. Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may also want to conduct a short training. Here's a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Susan Jones and I’m a board member at the Westside Community Food Pantry. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We are seeing more people use our food pantry right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.

If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. Don’t start your letter with “On behalf of X organization we thank you for your donation of....” Open the letter with “You're amazing” or "Because of you, Sarah won't go to bed hungry tonight."

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, mention that. In addition, make sure all letters are hand signed.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donation.

Plan to Keep Thanking Your Donors all Year Round
As you put together your communications (aka editorial calendar), incorporate ways to thank your donors. Try say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ways to do that.
  • Send cards or email messages at Thanksgiving, during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or mix it up a little and send a note of gratitude in June or September when your donors won’t be expecting it.

  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without your donors’ support.

  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.

  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. If you treat them well, maybe they’ll treat you well the next time you send a fundraising appeal.

Ann Green is a nonprofit communication consultant who specializes in writing, editing, planning, and strategy. Contact her at A version of this originally appeared in Ann Green's Nonprofit Blog.
October 2014
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