5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Thanking Donors

Sep 18, 2018

Every successful nonprofit has one major trait in common: they all express gratitude to and appreciation of their donors. A simple “thank you” never goes out of style and is an easy, cost-effective way to give your donors the warm and fuzzies, making them feel good about supporting your mission.

Properly recognizing donor contributions builds relationships, increases the likelihood that donors will keep coming back—and really, it’s just good manners.

When it comes to donor recognition, a little creativity can go a long way to get those feel-good thoughts flowing and make a lasting impression. Here are five tips to consider when thanking your donors:

1. Recognize Major Milestones

Throughout a donor’s span of involvement with your nonprofit, they may reach certain giving milestones that, if properly recognized, give you an extra opportunity to connect even deeper with your donor.

With the CRM software and data management tools available to nonprofits today, it’s easier than ever to keep track of major giving milestones. Every nonprofit will have their own ideas of what constitutes a milestone, but here are a few examples of opportunities to show some extra love to your donors:

  • Send a welcome package. — Upon a donor’s first gift to your organization, consider sending a “welcome to the family” package that makes them feel important and included. This package may even include a freebie with special organizational branding such as a bumper sticker, address labels, or a koozie. A welcome package is also a good opportunity to further expand upon your organization’s history and story.
  • Highlight specific giving intervals. — Once a donor hits a certain giving interval, like 10 years of consecutive giving, for example, find a creative way to celebrate them. This could be something as simple as a phone call from a benefactor or as organized as creating prestigious giving circles for which members receive special perks and recognition.
  • Celebrating lifetime giving. — Once a donor has given a certain aggregate amount over their lifetime, either in terms of money or time, consider publicly recognizing them on your website or Facebook page (with their consent, of course!). If privacy is of concern, consider holding a small event for donors and their benefactors or even sending a high-level employee of the organization to visit the donor.

2. Demonstrate Value & Impact Through Stories

Donors give to their nonprofit(s) of choice because they believe in the mission and they want to make a difference. They are more likely to continue giving back if they understand the value of their contributions.

It is so important to clearly articulate how a donor’s contribution feeds into the organization’s overall goals and objectives. This is particularly essential when crafting the perfect gift solicitation letter, but don’t miss the opportunity to communicate value to your donors while expressing your gratitude.

Statistics will numerically demonstrate how a donor’s involvement has benefitted the organization, but the right storytelling can have a much larger impact. Emotionally-charged and carefully-crafted stories are usually successful in demonstrating donor impact because they are personal, relatable, and actionable.

Sharing a quote from one of your beneficiaries, using an infographic representing tangible accomplishments, or choosing a powerful photo visually demonstrating the impact of their support are a few ways to go beyond the numbers when telling your story.

Never miss out on an opportunity to share a good story with your constituents and to relate that story back to their support. Matching their giving history or aggregate giving amount with your organizational programs or initiatives is an easy way to communicate the benefits of their support.

3. Speak Their Language

In our digital world, there are tons of ways to engage donors, and every donor has their own preferred method of communication.

Some respond well to phone calls, while others appreciate a personal email or a public tweet. Donor preferences can be easily captured in your CRM software so you can ensure you’re always reaching out through their preferred communication channel.

In most cases, many nonprofit organizations still believe and trust in the thank-you letter as their primary mode of expressing gratitude. When writing a thank you letter, be direct and concise, but avoid sounding too impersonal or templated.

(Hint: Handwritten is always a nice touch!)

4. Get Creative

There are many ways to flex your creativity when it comes to thanking donors, particularly when using digital media. Consider leveraging new technology for a unique touchpoint with a donor that can leave a lasting impression.

Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Use GIFs and short videos. — With tons of free (or relatively cheap) video editing and GIF creation apps, many of us already carry around the perfect tool for social media sharing = a smartphone. With minimal effort, making quick videos and GIFs thanking donors can go a really long way to creating a unique experience.
  • Try retargeting advertising. — Simply put, retargeting is when a website keeps track of its visitors and serves those visitors ads across the web on other websites that are part of Google’s Display Network. Instead of using these ads to encourage giving, you could instead use them to thank your donors. For example, after the donor has made their gift online, they are added to a list of donors who can see specific thank-you banner advertisements.
  • Send SMS (text) messaging. — Although text message technology has been around for decades, it has only recently become a reliable channel for nonprofits to engage donors. Text-to-give campaigns are incredibly powerful fundraising tools, but nonprofits could also use them as opportunities to show gratitude.
  • Share Spotify playlists. — Streaming services have changed the music industry and how many of us now listen to music. We are now living in the age of the playlist, and thanks to Spotify, playlists are easily shareable. For example, a nonprofit that operates a large annual event like a run, walk, or 1,000+ mile bike ride, typically have engaged and committed donors that train for these events. To thank participants as they register, you could provide access to an exclusive workout playlist they can use to train.

5. Push for Further Action

Your donors’ passion for your cause is usually the strongest right after giving. While it might seem overbearing to request donors do something so soon after donating, it’s actually the perfect time to motivate them further.

An ask isn’t always about money; rather, you could encourage donors to complete a specific action that keeps them connected and engaged with your nonprofit. Some next steps can include:

  • Subscribing to a periodic email blast newsletter;
  • Following social media accounts;
  • Watching success story videos featuring certain programs;
  • Registering to volunteer for an upcoming event;
  • Referring the nonprofit to their friends and family; or
  • Posting a personal quote on Twitter or Instagram with a campaign hashtag demonstrating why they believe in your organization.


Thankfulness is a feeling, whereas gratitude is an action. Gratitude is defined as “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Saying thank you is an easy, priceless way to show your donors that you appreciate them.

However, it’s never really about how you say it, but rather, how your constituents feel when you say it. Be prompt and sincere with your gratitude and you’ll find that your donors can’t wait to give again.

For more information on how to get the most out of your donor data, contact us today!

Stu Manewith, CFRE
Stu Manewith, CFRE joined Omatic Software six years ago and serves as the company’s Director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy. In that role, he is Omatic’s nonprofit sector domain specialist and subject-matter expert and is responsible for actively promoting and demonstrating Omatic’s position as the nonprofit industry’s leading partner in the areas of data health and integration. Prior to Omatic, Stu spent 13 years at Blackbaud, working with Raiser’s Edge, Financial Edge, and Blackbaud CRM client organizations as a consultant, solution architect, and practice manager. Previously, Stu spent the first half of his career as a nonprofit executive, fundraiser, and finance director, working in both the healthcare and arts/cultural arenas of the nonprofit sector. He holds business degrees from Washington University and the University of Wisconsin, and he earned his CFRE credential in 1999.