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Is “Thank You” On-Brand for Your Organization?

Posted by on November 9th, 2021
Posted in Blog, Digital, Email Campaigns, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Fundraising, Nonprofit Messaging   

Have you thanked your supporters lately? Really thanked them from the bottom of your heart?

In this digital fundraising world, frenzied year-round and never more so than November and December, the personalized thank-you to supporters should be your top priority.

But showing gratitude for the volunteers, donors and others without whom you could not achieve your mission without has never mattered more. Not only is an authentic thank-you a sure-fire retention tool, approaching your appreciations through the lens of your brand elevates your work and helps stakeholders see themselves in your brand’s story.

Avoid these 8 pitfalls and watch loyalty and appreciation for your work rise, serving you now and in the year ahead:

1. Automatically Generated Donor Acknowledgements

Yes, when a donor gives through your website or an app, an acknowledgement is needed. But since these are automatically generated to arrive within minutes of the gift, they lack both heart and authenticity. Keep these up for administrative reasons, but don’t count them as a sincere and customized thank-you because they aren’t. 

Hint: A second pre-populated email that arrives from your organization within minutes also misses the point.

2. Thanking Once, or Not at All

If you’re not going out of your way to thank your donors and volunteers, they probably don’t feel appreciated. Everyone loves to be seen, even if they say otherwise. 

“I know the classroom teacher you volunteered with this year has appreciated your efforts, and I’m reaching out to thank you from everyone here who knows how much your time means to the children you’ve helped with their language skills.” 

3. Generic Thanks

The words “thank you” are commonly heard, so your message of gratitude needs to stand out to feel good. One way to do this is to be specific: “You’ve supported our annual campaign every year since we launched it, so to one of our most loyal donors, we offer our deepest gratitude.” 

4. Forgetting Who You Are

An overly flowery thank-you, one that’s somber, or a thanks that sounds glib will miss the mark if it’s incongruent with your organization’s brand. Think about your organization’s values, personality, and what makes you unique. How do people want to feel when they hear from you? 

Make sure the words, tone and style of your appreciation sound just like all your other carefully crafted communications. This will reinforce your brand and the relationship supporters feel they have with you. Click here for more on creating a strong brand.

5. Starting Fresh

When it comes time to thank your supporters there’s no need to create something flashy and new. Your organization’s key messages, that link back to your brand strategy, are the first place you should turn as you prepare to thank people. Consistent use of your key messages pays dividends by reassuring supporters that you’re steady and strong.

6. Forgetting the Phone and the Note

In this faceless digital world there’s no better way to show that your thank-you is sincere than calling your supporter or hand-writing them a personalized note of appreciation. Incorporate the ideas in this blog for how to do this well.

7. Cultural Misfire

If your supporters would love a phone call of thanks, give them that. But some cultures thank and celebrate each other in different ways. Perhaps a small gift of food is the better way to acknowledge someone. Be sensitive to the cultural norms of your supporters. Doing so will help them feel truly seen, and you’ll avoid inadvertently reinforcing western/white supremacy culture when you do.

8. Thinking it’s All on You

I can hear you now, “That’s all fine and good, but I’m a fundraising department of one. I don’t have time to customize individual donor recognition!”  

Recruit a thank-you committee of board members and other volunteers from the paid and unpaid staff and divide the list. This doesn’t have to happen the instant someone volunteers or makes a donation. This human-to-human outreach will be welcome whenever your committee makes it happen. So share the load and start crafting your On-Brand, Thank-you Plan!

Have great and memorable ‘thank you’ practices? Share them in the comments bellow!


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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One response to “Is “Thank You” On-Brand for Your Organization?”

  1. Thanks Jennie! The Board I sit on stages a “Thank-A-Thon” specifically for the Board twice a year. We call donors to thank them and tell them what’s happening at the agency they support. The Development Director provides a script and a little insight into each donor, making these calls warm and personal. And it helps Board members get used to talking to donors without having to make “an ask.”