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Thank You Very Much!

Everyone knows that thanking donors is a must do. But what can you do to make your acknowledgments a must read?

1. Timeliness Is Critical

Time to second gift is indicative of the donor’s long-term value, so get that acknowledgment out ASAP—no later than a week after receipt of the gift. You want the donor to remember the cause they’re supporting, and a prompt thank-you shows them the organization is on the ball with processing. 

2. Make It Look Personal

Even if it’s a form letter or an auto-generated response, add a touch of personalization. In mail, you can add some handwritten notes (via inkjet) that look real. In email, I prefer plain text to an overly designed HTML format. Make the donor feel as if you’re personally writing to them, not the masses. And loosen up your language—choose colloquial language.

Are they new to file or a multi-gift giver or a lapsed donor who has reactivated? Make sure your response reflects the donor’s position in the giving lifecycle. It shows you know the donor and their giving history.

3. Show Impact

How did the donor’s gift make a difference? Relating a story or follow-up to the piece they gave to will complete the giving circle. Make sure the donor is the solution to the problem. Keep the organization out of the way—the donor is the star. In email, test a video that shows the impact of your programs so the donors can see their gift in action.

4. Surprise and Delight

Send an unexpected thank-you gift with their acknowledgment; a decal or magnet or bookmark are inexpensive ways to give something a little extra. For new-to-file donors, you want their first experience with the organization to be a positive one; consider a welcome kit with labels/notepad and a temporary donor card. 

Reach out when it’s unexpected. The anniversary of someone’s gift is a great time to say thank you again. If they gave in honor/in memory of someone and you know that significant date, acknowledge it. For membership organizations, send a thank-you right before the renewal series starts. And try a Thanksgiving card before year end rather than a holiday card.

5. Try a Different Channel 

Outside of the normal mail and email channels, you can call donors. A simple thank-you call will go a long way, especially once the donor realizes you’re not calling to ask for money. You can use a recording or live operator depending on their giving level. 

Or better yet, text them! Over 70% of Boomers and more than half of the Greatest Generation now own smartphones. Text messages have a 98% open rate (as opposed to approximately 20% on email). Start building up your phone file now so you can communicate with younger donors in this preferred channel. 

You can never thank donors too much or too often. Make your acknowledgments anything but perfunctory. Make them impactful, personal and unexpected. A thank-you program done right will not only make net revenue on its own, but it will shorten time to second gift and lead to longer term retention. 



Angela Struebing