How to Make #GivingTuesday a Better Experience for Your Donors

Logos - GivingTuesday

I imagine most of you are familiar with #GivingTuesday, the annual giving day that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year it will be on November 30.

I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should participate in #GivingTuesday. Perhaps you’ve participated in the past and it’s been successful, or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps you’re planning to participate for the first time. Maybe you’re on the fence. 

Should we do Giving Tuesday this year?

Whether you participate or not, #GivingTuesday is part of the nonprofit landscape and if you’re doing a year-end appeal, you’ll need to factor it into your campaign. If you do participate, you want to make it a better experience for your donors instead of the usual barrage of generic email messages.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as #GivingTuesday approaches.

Just because it’s #Giving Tuesday isn’t a compelling reason to give

I see so many emails that say donate because it’s #GivingTuesday. Many donors don’t care if it’s #GivingTuesday or it’s your “annual appeal.” That’s often not why they donate. They give because they care about your cause and want to help make a difference. 

Let them know that with their help Darren can sleep in a warm bed tonight or Sarah can boost her reading skills.

We’re still in a pandemic and people and communities are struggling. You need to acknowledge this in your appeals.

It’s not just about the money

A successful #GivingTuesday campaign is about more than just raising a lot of money. You also want to build relationships and make your donors feel good about supporting your organization. This is where it often falls short.

I haven’t been a huge fan of #GivingTuesday or any giving days, for that matter, because they focus too much on getting donations. Many of these donors are first-time donors who don’t give again. The end result is you’ve just spent a lot of time and effort on getting one-time gifts. That’s not what you want. You need donors who will support you for many years.

Make it personal and segment your donors

Don’t just blast a bunch of generic appeals that resemble Black Friday ads or those relentless requests for political donations. I received so many emails for the Virginia governor’s race and I don’t even live in Virginia.

Giving Tuesday and Why We’re Killing It

You also don’t want to send all your donors the same appeal. If someone donated last year on #GivingTuesday, this is the perfect opportunity to thank them for that gift and ask them to donate again this year. If they donated two weeks ago, maybe they shouldn’t get an appeal right now.

Acknowledge past donors and make a connection with potential donors. 

Make This the Year You Segment Your Donors

Focus on building relationships with your donors instead of pleading for donations.

Also, if you’re sending an appeal to your monthly donors, recognize them as monthly donors. They can either upgrade or give an additional gift. They get their own thank you, too. Monthly donors are one of your most loyal types of donors. Be sure to make them feel special.

Should You Thank Monthly Donors Who Make an Extra Gift?

If you’re one of the few organizations that send more personalized appeals, then kudos to you because that’s what everyone needs to do. I saw some evidence of more personalized, nuanced appeals in 2020, so let’s keep that up.

Use #GivingTuesday as a way to follow up with your donors

If you don’t want to launch a full #Giving Tuesday campaign (understandable), it can be a great opportunity to follow up with people who haven’t donated to your year-end appeal. You should be sending regular reminders, anyway.

Send email and social media messages before and on #Giving Tuesday encouraging people to donate. You can use the #GivingTuesday logos, etc. if you’d like. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following up with anyone who didn’t donate on #GivingTuesday.

Keep in mind your donors will be barraged with email and social media messages on #GivingTuesday. Make yours stand out and be prepared to keep following up.

Get ready for gratitude

Your donors should be feeling the love right after they make their donation.

Make sure you have an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email for your online donors. You could even create ones especially for #GivingTuesday. Then you need to follow that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.

Send welcome packages to new donors or welcome back messages to current donors. 

#GivingTuesday has a transactional feel to it, although it doesn’t need to. Go the extra mile and do a good job of thanking these donors – both right after they’ve made their donation and throughout the year.

3 Ways to Follow Up with Your Donors After Giving Tuesday

We’re going to skip #GivingTuesday 

Maybe you’ll decide to bypass #GivingTuesday altogether. Remember, other organizations will be participating and your messages will be competing with the onslaught of #GivingTuesday appeals. 

You have an opportunity to stand out here by keeping your fundraising campaign focused on gratitude and relationship building. Year-end is a good time to ramp up your donor communication (examples include thank you messages, holiday greetings, and updates) so people don’t think you’re only asking them for money.

A New Approach to Giving Tuesday: Be different and stand out from the crowd

Give back to your donors

I think you’ll find your #GivingTuesday campaign, or any fundraising campaign, will be more successful if you focus on more than just the giving part. And a big part of a successful campaign is getting repeat donations. This means giving back to your donors, as well.

Read on for more information on how to make #GivingTuesday a better experience for your donors.

TIS THE SEASON: BUT IS GIVING TUESDAY REALLY COMMUNITY-CENTERED?

Giving Tuesday Without Giving Gratitude

3 Things to Include in Your Giving Tuesday Thank You Message

How to make #GivingTuesday more than a gimme

Following Up After #GivingTuesday: 5 Crucial Steps

STANDING OUT IN THE NOISY SPACE OF THE NON-PROFIT SECTOR

The Gratitude Season

Now that November is here, many of you are working on your year-end fundraising campaign. It’s also the beginning of the gratitude season with Thanksgiving in the U.S. and the December holidays just around the corner. Is it just me, or did it seem as if stores got into holiday mode earlier than ever this year?

Now is a great opportunity to show some gratitude to your donors. How about having a thankathon, especially if you haven’t launched your appeal yet?

Gear Up for a Thankathon Now

If you’re thinking you’re too busy with your year-end appeal to spend much time thanking your donors right now, that’s precisely why you need to get on the thank you train.

You’re never too busy to thank your donors. Showing gratitude and building relationships should help you raise more money. Besides, many donors stepped up to support you over the last 18+ months. Don’t they deserve some extra love?

Some donors may have cut back on their giving or haven’t given at all since the pandemic started, but they should still get some attention. Hopefully, they’ll give again in the future. There’s a better chance of that if you treat them well.

Showing gratitude doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, but you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors and building relationships as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways to thank your donors and let them know they’re special.

Incorporate thanking your donors into your year-end fundraising campaign

Does your appeal thank donors for their past or potential gifts? It should. Remember, you need to be showing gratitude while you’re trying to raise money.

This is especially important around #GivingTuesday and I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Wish your donors a Happy Thanksgiving

One way to show gratitude right now is to send your donors a special Thanksgiving message. A lot of nonprofits already do this. If you’re not one of them, make this the year you start. If you can send a card or postcard, that’s great, but an email message is also fine.

We’re still living in a time of uncertainty and your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message from you. Let them know how grateful you are to have them as part of your donor family. 

Don’t stop with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to show some #donorlove. The holidays and New Year’s are coming up soon and that’s a good opportunity, especially for those of you outside the U.S., to express gratitude. But you don’t need a holiday or other special occasion. Just thank your donors and do it often. 

Whatever you decide, DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This is known as a thask and it’s guaranteed to deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Be ready to thank your donors as soon as you receive a donation

Every single donor, no matter how much they’ve given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card/letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

Planning ahead will help you thank your donors as soon as possible. I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting your fundraising appeal out. Perhaps you’ve recruited other staff or volunteers to help you.

You need to do the same thing when you thank your donors. Get your board, other staff, and volunteers to help make phone calls, write thank you notes, or include a handwritten note on a thank you letter. Much of this can be done from home.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Your donors deserve more than just the same boring, generic thank you letter. The initial thank you right after you receive a donation is important. So is the next one and the one after that and the one after that….

Thanking your donors is not something you just do after receiving a donation. You want to thank your donors at least once a month. Here are some ideas to show gratitude throughout the year.

  • Send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.
  • Send welcome packages to your new donors.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated on your success and challenges. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude.
  • Thank your donors in your newsletters and other updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without their support.
  • Create a virtual tour or other engaging video content so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Thank your donors just because they’re great.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

We need more kindness right now

I often feel there’s not enough kindness in the world. We’re all still dealing with a lot and the divisiveness doesn’t help. In the spirit of kindness, show some gratitude to your donors and make them feel special.

Read on for more inspiration on how to thank your donors.

Don’t Treat Thanking Your Donors as an Afterthought 

13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

Donor Appreciation: Creating a Strategy (And 22+ Ideas!)

15 Sincere Ways to Say Thank You to Your Donors

Make This the Year You Segment Your Donors

Do you send all your donors the same appeal and thank you letter? Do you also feel your appeals aren’t bringing you the donations you need?

There may be a correlation here. If you’re not segmenting your donors into different groups, you’re missing a chance to raise more money and let your donors know you recognize them for who they are.

Your donors are not the same. Some donors have given for at least five years (these donors should get a lot of attention). Some are monthly donors. Yet, nonprofit organizations fail to recognize that and send everyone a one-size-fits-all letter. 

Sometimes smaller organizations do a better job of personalization. Not that long ago, I received a generic, one-size-fits-all appeal from a large, national organization. I’m a monthly donor and they didn’t acknowledge that. In fact, the letter included a blurb encouraging people to become monthly donors. Um….

That organization missed an opportunity to do a better job of connecting with their donors. Unfortunately, they are one of many.

When you’re too big to succeed

If you’re not segmenting your donors, make this the year you start. And if you’re already segmenting your donors, kudos to you!

You may be worried about how much time this will take. Plus, you don’t think your current database can handle it and it will cost too much to get a better one. 

In reality, it may cost you more not to segment.  A good database/CRM is worth the investment. Segmenting your donors will help you with retention, which costs more than trying to find new donors. Donor stewardship/engagement is usually easier and it’s more fun.

You also don’t need to create 100 different types of letters. Four or five should be sufficient. Your appeals and thank you letters will stand out if you can personalize them and not send everyone the same generic letter.

Here are a few different types of donor groups. You may want to include others. The more you can segment, the better. Remember, investing in a good CRM/database will help you with this.

Current single gift donors

One of the biggest hurdles nonprofits face is ensuring first-time donors give a second time. If they keep giving after that, they’re showing their commitment to your organization. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

An appeal letter to current single gift donors (Monthly donors get their own appeal. More on that below.) must acknowledge their past support. This is also a good opportunity to ask for an upgrade. Many organizations don’t do this, but it’s a good way to increase your revenue.

Your donors will be more receptive to upgrading their gifts if you’ve been doing a good job of thanking them and staying in touch throughout the year.

If these donors give again, they should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter letting them know how much you appreciate their continued support. If they’ve upgraded their gift, be sure to acknowledge that, too. 

Potential/new single gift donors

If you’re sending an appeal to someone who’s never donated to your nonprofit before, what is your connection to them? Are they volunteers, event attendees, or people on a list you purchased?

The more you can establish a connection, the better chance you have of getting a donation.

The retention rate for first-time donors is horrible. One of the reasons is poor communication. You can help boost your retention rate by making your new donors feel special.

New donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter welcoming them as donors. Invite them to connect with you in other ways such as signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, or volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome package by mail or email. Personalization is crucial with new donors.

Are We Sure An Automated Email Welcome Series For New Donors Is A Good Idea?

New monthly donors

Brand new donors who opt for monthly or other recurring donations get the same special thank you treatment mentioned above. Welcome them to your family of monthly donors. 

Current monthly donors

Your current monthly donors must get their own appeal that recognizes them as monthly donors. In this appeal, you can either ask them to upgrade their gift or give an additional gift. 

When your donors renew or upgrade their monthly gifts, they, of course, get an amazing thank you.

Current donors who become monthly donors

Your current donors who decide to become monthly donors are also showing their commitment to you. They get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter thanking them for their continued support and for joining your family of monthly donors. From now on they should get specialized appeals and other communications targeted to monthly donors. 

Segmenting your donors makes a difference

In these uncertain times, some donors may cut back on their giving. Don’t let them choose between organizations that communicate throughout the year with engaging personalized appeals, thank yous, and updates and organizations who just send generic, one-size-fits-all communications. People are also looking for a personal connection right now. 

Spending some extra time segmenting your donors and personalizing your communications will be worth it if you can raise additional revenue and boost your retention rate.

Here’s more information about segmenting your donors.

How to Segment Your Donors

Donor Segmentation: The Ultimate Guide for Nonprofits

4 Smart Donor Segmentation Strategies for Nonprofits

KEY DONOR SEGMENTS FOR A BETTER YEAR-END APPEAL

Donor Appreciation: 3 Virtual Strategies to Consider

My last post, Don’t Treat Thanking Your Donors as an Afterthought, covered thanking donors by mail or phone. This post from Salsa Labs covers a few virtual ways to say thank you, including one of my favorites – a personalized thank you video.

Most of your communication with donors has shifted to the digital space, presenting unique challenges for thanking your donors. Try these virtual strategies!

By Craig Grella

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many facets of your nonprofit’s operations, including how you fundraise, host events, and communicate with your supporters. Although you’ve likely learned to go with the flow and embrace these new opportunities, the past year or so hasn’t been without its challenges. 

During this period of social distancing, it’s been especially hard for nonprofits like yours to communicate and feel connected to your donors. And no wonder— when you can’t see your supporters face-to-face, it can be difficult to effectively engage your donors and cultivate lasting relationships that will benefit your nonprofit far into the future. 

Luckily, the pandemic brought about more effective technology, providing your nonprofit with new ways of doing things, and you can leverage these tools in your virtual donor appreciation efforts. 

Not sure where to begin? No problem. In this guide, we’ll give you three virtual strategies you can use to strengthen your approach to donor appreciation. Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  1. Use donor data to personalize your messaging. 
  2. Learn to write thoughtful thank yous. 
  3. Surprise your donors with unique and unexpected approaches to appreciation. 

Thanking your donors is a big job for every nonprofit, and learning to do it effectively can be time-consuming. However, with the right strategies, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an excellent virtual donor thank you plan that helps you cultivate lasting relationships. 

Let’s begin by first taking a closer look at how your constituent relationship management system (CRM) can help you add a personal touch to your donor appreciation efforts. 

  1. Use donor data to personalize your messaging. 

Every donor is unique, with a different set of values, interests, and motivations that contribute to their desire to see your nonprofit succeed in accomplishing its mission. Whether they communicate it to you or not, donors want your organization to see them as individuals and value their contributions to your cause. 

Admittedly, it’s easy for nonprofit organizations to fall into the trap of picturing all of their donors in the same way and generalizing their approach to donor appreciation, especially when you’re stressed about meeting a fundraising goal. But this could have negative ramifications for your organization. 

According to an Abila donor loyalty study, “approximately 71% of donors feel more engaged with a nonprofit when they receive content that’s personalized.” This means if you’re letting personalization fall by the wayside in your donor appreciation strategies, you could be losing your donors’ interest and loyalty.

Luckily, you already have one extremely useful tool you can use to personalize your appreciation efforts — your CRM, or your donor database. 

Your CRM stores your donors’ contact information, donation and event participation history, and more. In addition to this wealth of information, you can use your CRM to track specific performance metrics like email open rate or average donation size by demographic. Metrics like these allow you to gain even more insight into your donors’ communication preferences and needs so you can effectively cater your messaging to them. Plus, you can even use your CRM to automate the thank you process so each donor gets thanked on time, every time. 

Here are three best practices for using your CRM to personalize your donor thank you efforts: 

  • Use your database to learn your donors’ names. Thank you messages always stand out and feel more genuine if they include a name. For example, if you begin a thank you email by saying, “Dear Emma,” or “Hello Kendall,” donors will feel like you really know who they are and actually care about them. Just remember to spell their names correctly! 
  • Highlight your gift amounts and the impact your donors’ gifts have on your mission. Specifically thanking your donor for a gift of $25 will be much more meaningful to that donor than simply saying something generic like, “Thank you for the donation.” Supporters are giving their hard-earned money to your cause, and you can recognize that by taking special care to acknowledge just how much your donor gave. Also, don’t forget to let them know how their gift is helping to make a difference.
  • Segment your donors to send the best thank you possible. A thank you in the form of a Facebook message might be ideal for some of your donors, but that can really rub other donors the wrong way. When you segment your donors, or divide them into groups based on shared characteristics, you can identify the communication needs and preferences of the different groups. This means you’ll have a better chance of thanking each donor the way they want to be thanked, whether that’s through a text, handwritten note, short video, or social media shoutout. 

Remember, for a donor to really feel like they’re seen and appreciated by your organization, you should make them feel like they’ve been thanked by a real person. Use your CRM to get to know your donors and send a thank you that will have a lasting impact on them. 

  1. Learn to write thoughtful thank yous. 

Writing thank you letters is an art form, one you have to learn and practice in order to do well. Let’s first walk through the components of an effective thank you that apply no matter what form your thank you takes: 

  1. Salutation: This is your greeting or opening line. Ideally, you’ll use your donor’s name to get your letter off to a personalized start. 
  1. Acknowledgment of gift amount: Like we said in the previous section, it’s important to your donor for your organization to see how much they’ve given to your cause. Show them that you appreciate their specific gift amount, whether it’s big or small. 
  1. Impact of the gift: Illustrate for your donor how your organization is using their gift to meet a larger goal, whether that’s your overall mission or a smaller, more timely campaign goal. 
  1. (Optional) Story or visual: Some nonprofits enjoy sharing specific stories or emotionally evocative images that help connect their donors with their mission on a deeper level. For example, if you run an animal shelter, you might share a picture of a family of cats you were able to rescue because of recent donations. 
  1. Invitation for further engagement: This part of your note shouldn’t come across as a sales pitch. Instead, offer your organization’s contact information and invite your donor to reach out if they’re curious about other engagement opportunities or have questions. 
  1. Closing: Make sure to end your letter with a thank you and, ideally, the name of an actual person at your organization, like your executive director or development director. This is another great way to personalize your note. 

Thank you letters are traditionally sent via direct mail, but email has simplified and quickened that process. Even in email form, your goal with a donor thank you letter is to make your donor feel valued and to open the door for further engagement in the future. The thank you note isn’t the place to ask for another donation or make the donor feel like they must do more. Instead, your message and tone should be genuine and thoughtful enough that your donor will decide on their own to engage with your organization again. 

Looking for an extra boost to get you started writing sincere thank yous? Check out Fundraising Letters’ many templates that you can adapt to suit your cause.

  1. Surprise your donors with unique and unexpected approaches to appreciation. 

Maybe you’re ready to try some more out-of-the-box methods for thanking your donors. While sending a thank you note is common for most nonprofits, there are certainly some other approaches you can try— especially in a virtual format —that will surprise and delight your donors. 

Let’s look at a few of your options: 

  • Send an appreciation video. Donors often lead busy lives and may miss your live events and programming, so why not mimic an in-person experience with an appreciation video? Put your team to work making short thank you videos for each of your donors and email them out. A verbal thank you from a staff member will go a long way in making your donor feel special. Note: If you feel this might be time consuming, you could limit it to major donors or supporters who give above a set threshold.
  • Give a shout out to your donors on social media. According to Salsa’s article on fundraising strategies, many donors loved to be publicly thanked. Why not share a picture of a group of donors at an online fundraising event or create a thank you post with a list of donor names? Donors will be excited to see their name on your organization’s page and can then share the post with their family and friends. Be sure to get their permission before publicly thanking them.
  • Send branded gifts. Donors who give to your organization are committed to your cause, so they might like to have some merchandise to rep your brand. Use an online platform to design some branded merchandise, and then mail a hat, t-shirt, stress ball, or water bottle to your donor with a physical thank-you note. 
  • Create a virtual recognition wall. You’ve likely seen a physical donor recognition wall before, and maybe your nonprofit even has one at your facility. Even though you might not be able to have donors visit a physical location to see their names on a donor wall right now, you can recreate the experience by creating a virtual “wall” on your website that showcases your donors. This will make the “wall” accessible and shareable for all your donors, leading to some extra engagement on your website as well!
  • Host a donors-only virtual concert. Donors will feel especially valued by your organization if you invite them to an exclusive event just to celebrate them. Try hosting an online concert. You can even collect song requests from your donors beforehand to make the virtual event experience even more personalized and memorable. 

Whether you go with one of these unique ideas or you use them as a stepping stone to something that will work especially well for your specific donors, be sure to think of ways you can encourage further engagement with your organization. 


Thanking donors is always a big job for nonprofit organizations, even without the challenges of COVID-era virtual communication. However, you don’t have to let those challenges stop you from connecting with your donors and cultivating meaningful relationships with them. 

As you use your CRM to personalize your messaging to become an expert in thoughtful thank you note writing and look for unique ways to show your gratitude, you’ll be able to retain your donors for years to come. 

Craig Grella is a Content Marketer at Salsa Labs, the premier software for growth-focused nonprofits that combines CRM and engagement software with embedded best practices, machine learning, and world-class education and support. In his role, he serves thousands of nonprofits and advocacy organizations across the U.S.

Craig focuses on digital strategy using email marketing, online advertising campaigns, SMS campaigns, CRM management, reporting/analytics for KPIs, and more. He’s also the founder of Think Big Campaigns, a full-service consulting firm that specializes in political consulting, digital organizing, and issue advocacy. 

Don’t Treat Thanking Your Donors as an Afterthought 

You may have started working on your year-end appeal, which is great. Although, just as important, if not more important, is planning how you’ll thank your donors. 

I highly recommend creating a thank you plan, which will help you show gratitude before, during, and after a campaign. 

Many organizations treat thanking their donors as an afterthought and it shows. You can’t do that. It will hurt your chances to get future donations. If someone gives to your organization, they deserve to be showered with appreciation. 

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. The more you can do, the better.

Thanking your donors is something you need to do well. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you.

Make thanking your donors a priority. Here are a few ways to do a better job of thanking your donors. 

Start planning now

Don’t wait until the day after your appeal goes out. Give yourself plenty of time to plan. Write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal. Don’t forget that things often take longer than you think, especially now.

Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

I understand that handwritten notes and phone calls may be hard to do right now. At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, remember to get started on the content now. 

In the past, the standard was to send out thank you letters within 48 hours. That may be harder to do now, but don’t wait too long. Make sure you’re ready to go when the donations come in. 

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I love it when a nonprofit sends a handwritten thank you note. This is a rare occurrence, so if you do it, your thank you note will stand out in your donor’s mailbox.

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. 

How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out to help with this.

Think about how much your donors will appreciate this nice gesture. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Paul,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. We’re still seeing more people coming into the Riverside Community Food Bank. Times are tough and your generous gift will help a lot. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past six years.

Phone calls are another personal way to show gratitude

Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get together a team to help. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short virtual training first. Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Gail, this is Stacy Kramer and I’m a board member at the Riverside Community Food Bank. Thank you so much for your generous donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help feed more local families during this difficult time. 

How to Call Donors Just to Say Thank You for Donating

Write an amazing thank you letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an amazing thank you letter. Many thank you letters aren’t amazing at all and are mediocre at best. You’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

The purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donors. Keep that in mind at all times.  

Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization…. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be obvious it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with – Thank you, You’re incredible!, or You did something great today!

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This often comes across as bragging by saying something like – As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years…. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And, don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. You can ask again another time. Keep gratitude front and center.

Write separate thank you letters for different types of donors. Welcome new donors and welcome back your current donors. Monthly donors should also get special recognition.

Your thank you letter needs to make your donors feel good about giving to your organization. Let them know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example. Make it relevant to our current situations.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out are to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You!, and use a nice stamp (you can buy thank you stamps). Hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside that will help make it more personal. You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end, after you impress your donors with your letter, or include it on a separate page. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

Create a more personal online thank you

The thank you plan I reference above gives you advice on how to create better thank you landing pages and email acknowledgments. These often come across as transactional. You need to think of the donations you receive as the start or continuation of a relationship, not a transaction.

Remember, even though your online donors will get an electronic acknowledgment, they should still get thanked by mail or phone.

With all the uncertainty that’s going on, it’s crucial to do a good job of thanking your donors, both now and throughout the year. 

Here’s more information on how you can do a better job of thanking your donors.

How to Write the Perfect Donor Thank You Letter

Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

How To Write A Thank-You Letter For Donations | A Nonprofit Guide

Donor Appreciation Letter: Everything You Need To Know To Craft The Perfect One

A Donor Thank-You Letter Template (Plus Extra Tips!)

Why You Need a Thank You Plan

Thanking your donors is just as important, if not more important than fundraising. Yet many organizations spend a lot of time putting together a fundraising campaign and treat thanking their donors as an afterthought.

We’re still in a time of uncertainty. Charitable giving has gone down over the last 20 years. The Vanishing American Donor While people were generous last year during the height of the pandemic, it’s hard to know how long that will last.

Prioritizing gratitude and donor relations will help. If you don’t do a good job of thanking your donors, as well as building relationships throughout the year, you’ll have a hard time getting people to people to donate again, which is one of the keys to your success.

This is why having a thank you plan is crucial. Many organizations just thank their donors after they receive a gift and then disappear until the next fundraising appeal. Your donors deserve better than that. 

Thanking your donors is something you need to do throughout the year – at least once a month, if you can. A thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round.  

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

Plan to make a good first impression with your thank you landing page

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it shouldn’t resemble Amazon check out. It should make a person feel good about giving a donation.

Open with Thank you, Scott! or You’re incredible! Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help your clients/community right now. Put all the tax-deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

How To Optimize Your Donation Thank You Page + Examples Of Nonprofits Who Do It Right

Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email

Set up an automatic thank you email to go out after someone donates online. This email thank you is more of a reassurance to let your donor know you received her donation. You still need to thank her by mail or phone.

Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Give some thought to the email subject line, too. At the very least make sure it says Thank You or You did something great today and not anything boring like Your Donation Receipt or Donation Received. And please stop using words like transaction and processed. A donation is not a transaction. It’s the start or continuation of a relationship.

How to Write a Great Donation Thank-you Email (with Examples)

Email Thank You Letter Examples for Donors

6 Email Examples to Thank Year-End Donors

Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone

I’m a firm believer that every donor, no matter how much she’s given or whether she donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to her or receives a phone call.

Try to thank your donors within 48 hours or within a week at the latest. I know it might be hard to do that right now, but it will be easier if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. Remember, thanking your donors should be a priority. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.

Instead of sending the usual generic thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Making thank you calls or writing thank you notes is something your board can do. 

Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may want to conduct a short training (most likely via Zoom). Make sure to get your team together well before your next fundraising campaign so you’re ready to go when the donations come in. 

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note/letter/email. 

Hi Beth, this is Debra Carter and I’m a board member at the Westside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can continue to provide neighborhood families with healthy food. This is great. We’re still seeing a lot of people come in, so we really appreciate your support.

You’ll stand out if you can send a handwritten thank you card. I get a few of these a year and they tend to come from the same organizations, which shows you what they prioritize! 

If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. If you’ve been using the same letter template for a while, it’s time to freshen it up. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization, we thank you for your donation of…. 

Open your letter with You’re amazing or Because of you, the Turner family can finally move into their own home. Create separate letters for new donors, renewing donors, and monthly donors.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before, mention that. Hand sign the letters, if you can.

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

In addition, write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal letter. Make sure they’re ready to go as soon as the donations come in. Don’t wait three weeks.

How to Write The Best Thank-You Letter for Donations + Three Templates and Samples

A Guide to Crafting the Perfect Donation Thank-You Letter

Thank You Letters for Donations: How To Get Them Right

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because as I mentioned before – thanking your donors is something you must do all year round.

You can use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors, but why not go one step further and create a specific thank you calendar.

Remember to try to 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 may not be expecting it. Try to send at least one or two gratitude messages a year by mail, since your donors will be more likely to see those. And you don’t need a holiday or special occasion to thank your donors. Thank them just because….
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories, as well as how the current situations are impacting your work. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and other 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 thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.
  • Send a warm-up letter or email about a month before your next campaign (no ask). This is a great way to show appreciation BEFORE you send your appeals.
  • I wouldn’t recommend an open house or tours right now, but you could do something virtual to let your donors see your nonprofit up close and personal. Even when it is safe to gather in person again, a virtual gathering or tour may be easier to pull off. 
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

The tactics that work best are going to differ for each organization. I would definitely send something by mail a few times a year. Email and social media may not be as successful, especially if your donors don’t use electronic communication very much. You could survey them to find out their communication preferences, as well as their interests. This will help with your engagement.

Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. You need your donors right now, so don’t hold back on that always-important gratitude.

Keep Connecting With Your Donors by Using Visual Stories

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of connecting with your donors by sharing stories. Written stories are great, but donors may not have the time or energy to read a story.

This is why you also need to use visual stories. Some people respond better to visual stimuli, anyway. Here are a few ways to tell visual stories.

Tell a story in an instant with a great photo

You’ve probably heard the phrase a picture is worth a 1000 words. Cliche, yes, but it’s true.

You can capture your donors’attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean one of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action or something else that’s engaging.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be dominated by long-winded text. Most of your donors won’t want to read the whole thing. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance at the impact of their gift without having to slog through a bunch of tedious text.

Photos can enhance your print communication by breaking up the narrative. You can also complement your written stories with photos. Here’s a great example from an update I recently received.

You’ll notice that it’s a short, but engaging update. There’s no need for long print pieces. If you’re worried about mailing costs, postcards and other short pieces with photos are the way to go. You could even do a Postcard Annual Report 

If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through an endless number of Facebook and Twitter posts, an engaging photo can stand out and get their attention.

Use photos everywhere – fundraising appeals, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, updates, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this.

It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Also, make sure your photos match your messages. If you’re writing a fundraising appeal about children who aren’t getting enough to eat each day, don’t use a picture of happy kids.

Work with your program staff to get photos and videos (more on videos below). Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to use pictures of kids.

10 Ways Nonprofits Can Leverage Visual Storytelling

6 Ways to Tell Your Nonprofit Story With Images

6 Steps to Establishing a Photo Policy that Boosts Giving & Shows Respect

Highlight your work with a video

Videos are becoming a more popular way to connect. They can be used to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind-the-scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. 

You can share videos that are relevant to our current situations. If you’re a museum that’s re-opened, you can show people how they can visit it safely. You could give a virtual tour of some of your collections for people who aren’t comfortable visiting. You could also talk about how the pandemic or systemic racism has impacted the people/community you work with. 

I would definitely recommend creating a personalized thank you video. If that’s not possible, you can make a general one.

How to (Easily) Thank Donors with Video

Make your videos short and high quality. Short is key. People are still spending a lot more time online. If your video is more than a couple of minutes, they may not bother to watch it.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event (virtual or in person, when it’s safe).

6 Ways to Fundraise With Video

5 Examples of Nonprofit Storytelling that Compel People to Give

5 Inspirational Nonprofit Impact Story Videos

Spruce up your statistics by using infographics

A typical annual report is loaded with statistics. You want to share these, along with your accomplishments, but you don’t want to overwhelm your donors with a lot of text.

Why not use an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments? Here are some examples. 

A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Infographics are also great in other types of communication such as newsletters and updates.

6 Types of Nonprofit Infographics to Boost Your Campaigns

3 Infographic Tips for Nonprofits

10 Tools for Creating Nonprofit Infographics

Good visuals will enhance both your print and electronic communication. Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

A Beginner’s Guide to Visual Storytelling in Your Nonprofit Communications

Make Connections With Your Donors by Sharing Stories

After the year we’ve just been through, most people have realized the importance of connection. Your nonprofit organization also needs to make connections with your donors. One of the best ways to do that is to share stories.

Donors want to hear your stories

I would guess you’re not using stories as much as you should. That’s a mistake because people respond better to stories than a bunch of facts and statistics. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene.

You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but that shouldn’t stop you. The summer is a good time to come up with some new stories.

Your stories need to be relevant

I don’t need to tell you the world has changed since March 2020. Your stories need to take the current climate into account. That’s why you new need ones. This year is different than last year, but not the same as 2019. Let your donors know how the pandemic (which is still with us, by the way), the economy, and systemic racism are impacting your clients/community right now.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Work with your program staff to create stories that will help you connect with your donors. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories. Do this virtually if you’re not in the office.

How To Create A Culture of Storytelling in Your Nonprofit

When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why is this important?
  • Who is affected?
  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference or How can your donors help you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. Remember, donors want to hear how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. This could be a good way to get some current, relevant stories.

4 INSPIRATIONAL “SHARE YOUR STORY” PAGES THAT WILL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Language is important

It’s time to stop using jargon such as at-risk and underserved. These terms undermine your clients/community. These aren’t terms your donors use, anyway. Use language they’ll understand. 

You also don’t want to give the impression that your organization is coming in to save someone. This is especially important if the majority of your staff and donors are white, but your clients are people of color. This is known as white savior complex. Most likely that’s not intentional on your part, but watching how you tell your stories will help you avoid that. Be respectful of your clients/community.

4 Resources to Help Shift the Narrative for Equity in Nonprofit Communications

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Remember, your stories aren’t about your organization. Your organization may have had to make a lot of changes to do some of the work you do, but that’s not your story. Your story is why this is important for the people/community you work with. 

Maybe you had to change the way you run your food pantry, but what’s most important is that people in your community continue to have access to healthy food. 

Make your stories personal 

Tell a story of one (person or family). Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything.

Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Use different stories for different types of communication

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. You want to use stories as much as possible. Use them in your appeals, thank you letters, newsletters, updates, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. 

While you can come up with some core stories, they’ll be slightly different depending on the type of communication. 

In a fundraising appeal, you want to highlight a problem or need. Let’s say you run a tutoring program. Here you can tell a story about James, a high school student who didn’t fare well with remote learning and is behind in his grade level. Because of this, he could benefit from a tutor. 

In your thank you letter, you can let your donors know that because of their generous gift, James will be able to start tutoring sessions with Mark, a local college student. 

Then in your newsletter, annual report, or update, you can tell a success story about how James is doing much better in school after starting weekly tutoring sessions with Mark. 

Make connections with your donors by sharing stories. Read on below for more information about creating stories. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories. 

Making a Great Story into a Powerful Fundraising Story

How to Write an Impact Story that Moves Hearts & Minds

A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Nonprofit Impact Stories

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

The 5 C’s of Good Nonprofit Communication

I want to revisit a topic I’ve written about in the past and that’s the 5 C’s of good nonprofit communication.

It’s important to keep these 5 C’s in mind when you’re writing a fundraising appeal, thank you letter, update, or any type of donor communication.  

Is it Clear?

What is your intention? What message are you sending to your donors? Are you asking for a donation, thanking them, or sharing an update? 

Whatever it is, make sure your message is clear. If you have a call to action, that needs to be clear as well. You also want to stick to one call to action. If you ask your donors to make a donation, volunteer, and contact their legislators in the same message, you run the risk of them not doing any of those.

What should you never put in a direct mail envelope

You want your message to produce results. Plain and simple, your fundraising appeal should entice someone to donate. Your thank you letter should thank your donors (no bragging or explaining what your organization does) and make them feel good about donating.

Use language your donors will understand (no jargon). Keep out terms like food insecurity and underserved communities. Just because something is clear to you, doesn’t mean it will be clear to others. 

Is it Concise?

Can you say more with less? Eliminate any unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and filler. Make your point right away. Concise writing doesn’t mean you need to be terse or all your print communication has to be one page. Sometimes it will need to be longer, but the same rules apply. 

Nonprofit organizations like to pack a lot of information into their monthly/quarterly newsletters and annual reports, but many donors won’t read something if it looks like it will be too long. 

Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Shorter, more frequent communication is better. This applies to the example I gave above about not putting more than one call to action in a message. You’ll have better results if you send separate messages for each call to action.

Also, most people skim, so use short paragraphs and lots of white space, especially for electronic communication.

Make all your words count.

Is it Conversational?

Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and be personable. Use the second person – where you refer to your donors as you and your organization as we. Remember to use you much more than we. 

Avoid using jargon, cliches, multi-syllable words, and the passive voice. Is that the way you talk to your friends? I hope not.

You may think you’re impressing your donors by using jargon and big words, but most likely you’re confusing them or even worse, alienating them. Connect with your donors by using language they’ll understand.

Want to really engage your readers? Make your writing more conversational

Is it Compelling?

Is whatever you’re writing going to capture someone’s attention right away and keep them interested? The average human attention span is eight seconds, so the odds are stacked against you.

Start with a good opening sentence. Leading with a question is often good. Stories are also great. 

Put a human face on your stories and keep statistics to a minimum. Start a fundraising appeal with a story that leads to a call to action.

9 Powerful Examples of Nonprofit Storytelling

Are you establishing a connection?

Donors are drawn to your organization because they feel a connection to your cause. You also need to establish a connection with them. You can start by segmenting your donors by different types, such as new donors, current donors, and monthly donors. 

Segmenting Your Donors is More Important Than Ever

Get to know your donors better and give them content you know they’ll be interested in. Hint – it’s not bragging about your organization. They want to know how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community. They also want to feel appreciated. Focus on building and sustaining relationships.

Keep these 5 C’s in mind to help ensure good communication with your donors.

Making Connections With Your Monthly Donors

Monthly giving on the rise. If you haven’t capitalized on this, what are you waiting for? This post won’t focus too much on starting or growing a monthly/recurring giving program, although if you’re interested in that, here’s more information.

10 Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

I want to focus on making connections with the monthly donors you already have.

We’re edging into summer, and while this is a slower fundraising season, it’s a good time to connect with your donors, whether they’re brand new or longtime supporters.

Make a plan

Create a plan for your monthly donor communication. Although I’m emphasizing summer, you need to communicate with your monthly donors (and all donors) throughout the year. I like to say because these donors support you every month, you should reciprocate by communicating with them at least once a month.

You can incorporate this into your communications calendar. Fill it with ways to show gratitude and share updates. You can use different channels. Here are some ideas to get started.

Send something by mail

How often do you get something personal in the mail? Not often, right? And when you do, it stands out.

Take some time this summer to create a postcard thank you and/or update or send a handwritten note. Your donors will really appreciate it.

Create a video

Videos are a great way to connect and they’re not that hard to create. If you can personalize it, all the better. Otherwise, you can create a general one that thanks your monthly donors.

5 Thank You Video Examples to Inspire Your Nonprofit

You can also create a video that gives a behind-the-scenes look at your organization or a virtual tour. 

Spruce up those automatic thank you emails

Those automatic thank you emails you may have set up don’t count as part of your monthly donor connection plan. It’s fine to create these, but you don’t have to. While these monthly acknowledgments are helpful, they’re usually uninspiring.

Spruce them up a little and change the content every few months. Use this as an opportunity to share some updates.

Here’s one that could use some work – Thank You for Your Recurring Donation. You have helped us continue our mission in a meaningful way. 

Talk about vague. A specific example of how a donor helped would improve this. Many of these acknowledgments are just receipts and a receipt is not a thank you.

Here’s a  better one. 

Thank you for donating to Malala Fund!

More than 130 million girls around the world are out of school today. Malala Fund believes that girls are the best investment in the future peace and prosperity of our world. Your gift supports our work to see every girl learn and lead without fear. 

Follow Malala Fund on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blog for updates on our fight for girls’ education.

With gratitude, 

Malala Fund

Besides thanking their donors, they also offer other ways to engage.

Get noticed with an enticing subject line

Most likely you’ll communicate by email, which has its pros and cons. It’s easier and less expensive than a postal mailing, but since people get an enormous amount of email, they might miss your message.

One way to get noticed is to use an enticing subject line. Here’s one I like from Pet Partners – Your monthly gift in action 

It goes on to tell a story about a therapy dog who visits with soldiers before and after their deployments.

Here’s another good one, although it wasn’t specifically for monthly donors –  I found a baby bird! What should I do?

This definitely captures your attention and makes you want to read more. 

Keep your donors engaged with good content

Congratulations, your donor opened your email message. You want to keep them engaged. The email I mentioned above gave you information about what to do if you find a baby bird, along with a link to a “handy chart.”

Get personal

Be sure to address your donors by name. I would also recommend separate communication for new donors and longer-term donors. 

Welcome new monthly donors. You can go a step further with different messages for brand new donors and single gift donors who have upgraded to monthly. Be sure to give special attention to longer-term donors. The average donor retention rate for monthly donors is 90% and you don’t want that to go down.

You can give shout outs in your newsletter and social media, but those won’t be as personal. Some organizations include a cover letter or note for their monthly donors in their newsletters. You could also create separate newsletters for monthly donors.

The key is to stay in touch and keep making connections.  The post below will give you more ideas. Maybe you can think of others. And you don’t have to come with 12 different ones. It’s okay to repeat them every few months.

Practical, Creative Ideas to Thank Monthly Donors

Don’t ignore your valuable, monthly donors. Keep making those important connections.