November is for Thanking

It is Thanksgiving week and it seems like a great time to talk about how important it is to be grateful recipients of donor gifts.

Do you remember being taught to write thank you notes to Grandma as a child?  Did they look something like this?  “Thank you for the $5.  I used it to replace the blue Play-Doh I ate.”  Even as adults, there is still some value to this model. 

Acknowledge the gift and how it was put to use to impact the whole.  There was another incredibly valuable part to this childhood lesson, the part where the thank you note had to be written before the gift could be enjoyed. While that seems especially tough for a kid, unfortunately many organizations continue to struggle here and this is important. A prompt acknowledgement of a gift emphasizes your gratitude, the accountability of your organization and provides you more opportunity to follow up with additional “thank you’s” in the future.

This brings me to a familiar credo, particularly in the nonprofit world, that I often teach – that every gift should be thanked 7 times.  While that seems overwhelming, there are non-intrusive approaches to making donors feel appreciated without wearing anyone out. 

What might those 7 “thank you’s” look like?  Here are 10 ideas to get you thinking.  Use your imagination, be creative, come up with you own plan, but say “thank you”!

  1. Thank the donor in person, immediately once they commit to a gift.

  2. Have a board/staff member call to say thank you within 3 days of a gift being made.

  3. Acknowledge the donor on social media. Give them a shout out on your website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. 

  4. Send a personal thank you note from the person who asked for/encouraged the gift.

  5. Send a thank-you from the organization (with a tax-receipt) within 48 to 72 hours.

  6. Have the Chair of the Board or President send a personalized thank you on behalf of the organization.

  7. Have the Executive Director or CEO send a personalized thank you on behalf of the organization.

  8. Have a board member follow up with a personal telephone call within 30 days.

  9. Thank the donor publicly at an event or list them on a donor page/wall, in a newsletter or annual report.

  10. Follow up approximately 6 to 8 months after the gift was made thanking them again and letting them know how you spent or are spending the gift. 

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Tips and Tidbits

  • Try not to focus so much on the monetary value of the gift received.  Discuss the ways they made a difference – the lives saved, people fed, houses built, etc.  This goes back to why people give - to feel good.  They already know how much money they gave you.  They want to know how they made a difference.

  • Make sure the notes, etc. are personal and genuine.  Personally addressed, personally signed and whenever possible, hand written. 

  • Take the opportunity to tell more of your story and build relationships, (without asking for more money).  

  • Thank the donor, not the donation.  One of the best thank you notes I received for a gift/service thanked me for my friendship.  They meant it and I keep it close to me. 

Say thank you.  Repeatedly.  To everyone.  To everyone you work with.  To everyone who volunteers.  To everyone who gives.  Say thank you.  It is the simplest act that can make the greatest impact.