7 Ways to Show Your Donors Some Love

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Everyone enjoys being appreciated and shown some love.

With the integration of technology into every area of our lives, reaching out to say thank you can be easier than ever before. If you’re using an online donation platform, anyone making a donation online receives an automated receipt. But confirming that a credit card has been processed and informing the donor that their gift was received is just a transactional thank-you.

If a donor sends in a check, transfers funds electronically, or drops off a gift in kind, the first letter they receive acknowledging that gift (and offering the IRS-required tax receipt) is also a transactional thank-you – and is the very least we can do. This sort of acknowledgement, if received within 48 hours, has been shown to increase the likelihood of another gift from that donor by four times.

But a transactional thank-you is never enough. To truly appreciate donors and show them some love, we need to move beyond the transactional thank-you to relational gratitude. Creating a culture of gratitude means that we move beyond what is expected to thanking donors and showing appreciation when – and in ways – they least expect it.

Donor Recognition Messaging Examples & Ideas:

1. Send a video or text message including the donor’s name so they know it was made just for them.

    • The more personal our touchpoints with a donor are, the better. By using their name in a communication you immediately draw their attention and make them feel appreciated. While email and snail mail correspondence can be personalized, video messages feel even more personalized. People love it, and videos have 6x the conversion rate of emails!

2. At the beginning of each board meeting, take a few moments to write thank-you notes to the most recent donors.

    • Board members can be very busy people (and remember, they’re all volunteers!). While many are more than willing to help, finding the time can be tough. Taking a few moments during a meeting to write notes ensures that the notes are written and doesn’t require additional time and attention of the members.

3. Each month, invite board members to call every new donor to thank them for their generosity and to listen to what inspired their gift.

    • Not every board member has the time or the inclination to pick up the phone to speak to donors, but if you are hoping to encourage board engagement in donor solicitation, begin with stewardship. It is much easier to call to thank someone than to ask for money. And from the donor’s perspective, receiving a phone call for a first gift, regardless of the gift size, let’s them know their gift is valued.

4. Send a small token of appreciation, perhaps quarterly:

    • An herbal tea bag with a handwritten note – “Enjoy a cup of tea on me!”
    • A small packet of an herb like mint, thanking them for planting seeds for the future
    • A refrigerator magnet or sticker that speaks to your mission and vision
    • Small tokens of appreciation are inexpensive ways to let someone know you’re thinking about them and appreciate what they do for you. These don’t need to be announced as “promotions” during an appeal, but these unexpected touches keep the organization in the donor’s mind as part of the broader donor cultivation process.

5. If you have their birthdate (or birth month) send a branded “Happy Birthday” card. (If your local oil change vendor and dentist can send them, can’t your favorite nonprofit?)

    • Who doesn’t like to receive a birthday message? It’s the one day of the year that is all about us! Anecdotally, donors who receive birthday greetings are often likely to make a gift in that year.

6. Choose a few holidays – like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Hanukkah, Christmas, or a national day specific to your mission – to send an additional note of gratitude.

    • When sending these greeting cards, remember to not make it a rote exercise by adding a personal note, perhaps sharing why their support is important to your community. How do they share the love? How do they help you find your pot of gold? How does their engagement remind you of what is important: hope, joy, peace.

7. Identify a day that is significant to your mission and use it to celebrate your community. Be sure to include donors, volunteers, staff, and program participants in the celebration.

    • In a calendar filled with national appreciation and awareness days, it can be easy to get lost in the noise. Establishing a day that is meaningful to the entire organization is a way to celebrate your community and raise awareness at the same time.

And remember, when you are thanking donors, thank them for being generous, for their generosity and kindness, instead of for their “generous donations.” The donation isn’t generous or kind, the donor is!

Regardless of the exact method you use to show your appreciation beyond the transactional thank you, remember to share with the donor how their donation is having an impact. Share stories of impact that will let them know that they are making a difference in someone’s life, the community, and the world.

In the end, exactly what you do to thank your donors and show them love is not as critical as the fact that you do something beyond the transactional receipt thank-you. What matters is that you thank them when they don’t expect it and that they understand the impact of their gift. 

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