Secrets to really thanking donors so you cement the relationship

What’s it like to be a donor?

Do they feel appreciated for their gifts? Do they believe their giving changes the world?

The answer depends mostly on what we do.

And sadly, as a sector, we fail terribly. Every time someone does one of those “secret shopper” projects — where they make donations to a number of charities, then track what happens — the news is discouraging:

  • Many thank-yous take weeks, even months to get to donors.
  • Many of them are simple forms that fulfill IRS requirements, but have no emotional content.
  • Errors are disturbingly frequent.
  • And a meaningful percentage of organizations don’t thank donors at all.

No wonder donor retention is so bad. Would you give again to on organization that treated you that way?

Of course, you are doing far better than that. (I know because you’re reading this!) So the question for you is this: How can you make thanking donors even better?

Here’s help form the Passionate Giving blog, at Creating Donor Joy: Breaking Through the Noise with Thanks:

  • Send a handwritten thank you letter written by a recipient of your organization’s work.
  • Write a thank you letter by hand.
  • Get your ED to say “thank you.”
  • Use a celebrity.
  • Create a joyful disruption. (Do something totally unexpected.)
  • Just because… The best thank you is the one that is not attached to any gift.

Now these ideas are geared toward the scale and budget of a major donor program. But why not think this way about the rest of your donors? Do what’s affordable.

But do more! Thanking donors matters!


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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