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David Mersky on 7 ways to thank a donor

7 ways to thank a donor

by David A. Mersky

Did you know that over 20% of giving happens in the last two days of December? With all those gifts, there will be lots of thank you letters!

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

Thousands and thousands of dollars.

Before you say that you don’t have the time to thank someone 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/or forms of recognition for each 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 monthly bulletin, email 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.

What are the seven ways you can thank a donor?

  1. A personalized thank you note from the person who solicited the gift.
  2. A personalized thank you from the Chair of the Board or President on behalf of the organization.
  3. A personalized thank you note from the Executive Director or CEO.
  4. A personal telephone within 3 days of the gift having been made from a staff member.
  5. A personal telephone call within 30 days from a member of the board.
  6. An acknowledgement in the newsletter in a section on “Gifts Received.”
  7. Six months later, a follow up report again thanking the donor for the gift and telling the donor what has been accomplished with the contribution.

Want more ideas?
8 – List the donor’s name in the Annual Report among all donors at the same level.
9 – A public display within the organization’s offices and/or at an 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.

  • Schedule pop-ups in fundraising management software to produce the letters and remind you that a call is to be made today.
  • Have an administrative assistant give you 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.

Never send a letter with two signatures

This is one of my pet peeves and with good reason. A letter with two signatures is impersonal. This donor devoted time to consider the organization – you should do the same in return. Take the extra two minutes and send two letters. It will create twice the impact, twice the positive impressions on the donor and, hopefully, twice the donation next year.

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