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Your Mom Was Right!

Posted by on March 21st, 2011
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Annual Report, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Fundraising    Tags: , , , ,

If your mother was like mine, you grew up writing thank you notes every time someone sent you a gift. It was an awful chore I always complained about, but as I grew older, I realized it is a simple courtesy that doesn’t require much of me but means a lot to the person being thanked. Maybe my small expressions of appreciation even made them more inclined to send me something on my next birthday…

It’s no different for your organization. People will be more inclined to continue giving if you express your appreciation promptly and sincerely, just like your mother taught you. In fact, there’s even a rule of fundraising thumb: it takes seven thank you’s to receive a gift consistent with a donor’s capacity. In other words, you need to thank them a lot to get the most out of them.

An old fundraising adage is that people give to people, so saying thank you provides an opportunity to open a conversation and begin a relationship with your donor or prospect.

The primary reason donors stop giving is that they don’t like the way an organization treated them. Either they weren’t thanked adequately or all they got were constant, desperate pleas for more with no attendant expressions of appreciation.

So now perhaps you’re wondering, what are all things I can thank them for to reach that magic number seven? Here are some ideas:

  1. Immediately send a personalized thank you to new donors and make them feel good about their decision to give to your organization by telling them how their gift will help make the world a better place. Don’t dwell on the details of how you do your work, though. Paint a picture of the better world your organization is trying to build or how individuals’ lives are improved by your work.
  2. Thank current and prospective donors for having lunch with you, taking the time to speak with you on the phone, or just for engaging with you in an email exchange.
  3. For larger gifts or for those who have the capacity for larger gifts, the person who solicited the gift, the executive director, a board member, the chair of the board, or even a combination of them should send a personal thank you note.
  4. Pick up the phone and make a call.
  5. Leave a voicemail message inviting further conversation.
  6. Acknowledge the gift by listing donor names in your print or e-newsletter or annual report.
  7. Say thank you publicly at an event or on a display, or on Facebook and Twitter as appropriate.

As your mom told you, saying thank you only takes a few moments, but the rewards are long-lasting.

For more ideas on how to thank your donors and for other fundraising tips, visit the Network for Good Learning Center at http://www.fundraising123.org/fundraising.

What are some creative ways you have used to thank your donors?


Susan Alexander is a Mission Minded Senior Strategist. She has decades of experience working with nonprofit organizations as a communications and fundraising consultant.

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