Seven + Ways To Thank A Donor

thank a donorWhat is the difference between organizations that acknowledge and recognize a donor once or twice after a major gift vs. seven times or more?

Thousands and thousands of dollars.

Before you say that you don’t have the time to thank a donor seven times, please know that we do not mean that you, personally, should call this person that many times. In fact, that might be considered stalking.

Instead, we want your organization to determine seven high impact, personal messages of appreciation and forms of recognition for each major donor that the donor will also value. While this may seem intimidating, think about the letters, the calls, the listings and updates to the marketing materials and other tasks that can, and should, be spread among the entire leadership of the organization – both staff and volunteer.

This is the point where you say, “if you think it is hard for me to make phone calls and write letters, getting anyone else to do it will be seven times as hard.” This may be true at first, but leadership must be invested in the long-term success of the organization, and there is no better way of nurturing that investment than through the creation of personal relationships. Creating such long-term relationships, including establishing a series of ways in which the donor knows that a gift was greatly valued and enthusiastically appreciated ensures the development of life-long relationships. Brainstorming to find ways that the donor can be publicly recognized in a newsletter, signage at an event and even in your Annual Report, will provide more than just a way to let people know who has supported you in the past year. It is a way in which a donor’s peers can see exemplary, generosity that they would do well to emulate. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

What are the seven ways you can thank a donor?

  1. A handwritten thank you note from the person who solicited the gift
  2. A formal acknowledgement for tax records from the office
  3. A personalized thank you from the Chair of the Board on behalf of the organization
  4. A personalized thank you note from the Chief Professional Officer
  5. A personal telephone within 3 days of the gift having been made from a staff member
  6. A personal telephone call within 30 days from a member of the board
  7. An acknowledgement in the newsletter in a section on “Gifts Received”

Want more ideas?

  1. A listing on the homepage of the website titled, “Thank you for our recent gifts from:”
  2. A listing of donors by giving level (or in aggregate) on its own page of the nonprofit’s website
  3. An immediate email for online donations with an acknowledgement of the gift
  4. Instead of sending a letter with two signatures, send two letters.
  5. Every three to six months send a follow up report again thanking the donor for the gift and telling the donor what has been accomplished with the contribution
  6. List the donor’s name in the Annual Report among all donors at the same level
  7. A public display within the organization’s offices
  8. A public display of annual fund donors – by giving level or in aggregate – at an event
  9. A donor event

Those personalized notes and phone calls only take a few minutes each. If these letters and phone calls don’t seem to make the top of the priority list consider some creative ways to make it easier on yourself. Have someone in admin give you (or a board member) an addressed and stamped envelope along with two pieces of the organization’s stationery. Schedule a call a day into your calendar as you would if you were to meet with this person; it is just as important to remember to make the call. Have a list of calls you can use as a break from the intensity of another project – knowing you will need a few breaks a day.

If you would like to speak with Mersky, Jaffe & Associates about how we can help you find an acknowledge donors email me by clicking here.

If you would like to read more of our 10 essential articles:

10 Pieces of Paper That Will Help Your Organization

10 Ways To Make Your Executive Search Successful

Overcoming the Anxieties of Asking

Note: this post was originally published in 2006