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August 15, 2020
Ten Ways for Nonprofits to Say 'Thank You'
By Sarah Lange

Sarah Lange
Sarah Lange
Since nonprofit fundraising, at its core, is about relationships, showing appreciation is central to continuing to grow and deepen those connections.

Donors should be thanked at least five times a year. Fortunately, saying “Thank You” can take many forms. Here are 10 ways to thank your donors:

1. Handwritten Note

In an age of email and text messages, a handwritten note carries even more meaning. One of my favorite thank you notes I ever received from an organization was a simple DIY card with a photo of a program participant on the front. It was heartfelt and really reflected the organization. I felt truly valued. Be sure to include your logo. The personal touch makes a difference your donors will notice.

2. Social Media

Use the power of social media to highlight some of your more touching donor scenarios, whether it’s a photo of a local business office that brings their whole team to deliver a giant check, or it’s an individual who arrives with a grocery bag of much needed supplies. Whether you have photos of the donors themselves or just the fruits of their donation, post the photos and give social media shout outs. Don’t forget to tag and share so that the donor themselves see the post. They, in turn, will most likely share it via their social media, increasing your exposure.

3. Public Thank You

You can use your newsletter and annual report to highlight donors, and/or by creating a Donor Wall at your organization, where lots of visitors and service recipients will see it. Some donor walls look complicated or expensive, but if you enlist your staff in some brainstorming, you’ll see that you can create some low-cost ways of celebrating your donors that fit your organization's budget.

4. Welcome Package

For first time donors, a small welcome package with a thank you note, a story or photos of the impact of their donation, and a small gift (like a book mark) can really make a donor feel appreciated and even more excited about your organization’s work. You can also set up a series of emails (otherwise known as a “drip campaign”) that your new donors receive over a series of weeks after they’ve made their donation. Research shows these people are quicker to give again, and at a higher level.

5. Video

A good thank you video can go a long way. Acknowledge your donors’ gifts with a clear and simple thank you video at any time of year. A 2 ”“ 3 minute “thank you” video will not only engage your donors, but it provides you with a way to publicly recognize them through social media and promote your organization to other potential supporters. Make it more impactful by having your service recipients deliver the message. Don’t worry about equipment. Video technology has come so far that a smartphone can make a great video worth sharing. Don’t worry about editing, either ”“ today’s donors don’t want a highly polished piece that’s been produced in a studio. Keep it short, so you can do it in one take.

6. Impact Updates

Make sure the donor knows how his/her donation was used. Donors like to see how their donation made an impact on the people you’re serving (because that’s who they want to help). Give number breakdowns where applicable, be specific, give examples, and tell stories. The thank you note should be as thorough and heartfelt as the initial plea for support.

7. From the Service Recipients

Whether you engage service recipients in making cards or take a big group photo holding a big “Thank You” sign, engaging your clients or constituents can be powerful for donors, and it helps engage your clients in what it takes to keep the organization and services running, which can be empowering for them. If you service children, hand drawn pictures and/or cards are particularly

8. Phone Calls

Doing a Thank-A- Thon is a great way to engage volunteers and board members. Divide up a list of donors, and sit down and make phone calls just to say thank you. It’s powerful to connect directly with individuals, and they’ll feel touched by the personal outreach. Sometimes you even learn incredible stories of why they gave to your organization or cause.

9. Donor Cultivation Event

A donor cultivation event is an intimate affair (no more than 100 people, including board and staff) that allows you to connect with your donors and to let them feel like part of group or movement. This can take the shape of anything from a breakfast to a cocktail hour, and can be held on-site, at a board member’s home, a local restaurant, art venue, or event space. Think about what would fit your organization’s capacity and budget.

10. Tour

Let your donors see your work up close. Invite them in for a tour of your facility and to see the impact of the work up close. This can even involve a driving or walking tour, depending on the nature of your work.(A quick reminder: when using photos or videos, be sure to get a media release signed by the people you’re filming.)

Sarah Lange is principal and founder of New Era, which helps nonprofits integrate best practices in fund development, marketing and communications, board development, strategic planning, and leadership. Email her at
January 2018
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