Thank You—It’s Not a One-Time Thing

The one thing you cannot do enough is thank your donors for their generosity.  Clearly, however, this is not something we do well.  Donor attrition rates continue to be high, while donor retention programs at most nonprofits seem to be nonexistent.  What are some of the things you can do to make your donors happier? Acknowledge their gift.  Immediately.  Nothing fancy, just a “thank you, we have received your gift…” with  the requisite substantiation statement,  If the gift is restricted, acknowledge that and reiterate the purpose(s) for which the gift will be used.

Not much after sending the acknowledgement, send a real thank you.  Tell them “your gift will…” and don’t, especially with restricted gifts, tell them about the activity that the funds will support.  Talk about the impact their gift will have.

Some months later, another thank you—connecting the dots and telling them what, so far, their support has helped to accomplished—will help enormously to bring your donor closer.  Yes, do this even if the gift was small.  Small gifts are often stepping-stones to larger ones, or to much larger bequests.  You don’t have to match dollar for dollar impact here, just tell them what donor support in general does for your organization and, more importantly, the clients or cause you serve.

Loyal donors, those who make regular gifts over a period of time, and larger donors do deserve more of your time.  So make sure you reach out again to them, this time more personally, and invite them to see first hand or hear about from a client or person who is doing the work, what their gift has meant.

Then thank them again by inviting them to a small gathering of other like-minded folk who also support your organization.  If nothing else, they will all have you in common.  Make that gathering a real celebration—of the things you are accomplishing and mostly of them, for helping you to achieve those accomplishments.

When you do reach out again to ask for another gift, start by thanking them for all that they have done.  Remind them of the value their past support has brought.  Show them that they truly have made a difference.

And unless they have asked you not to, celebrate them publically—in your honor roll, with a plaque, in a speech to people who may know them.  Call them out at meetings, telling the crowd how you couldn’t do what you do without them.

As often as possible, remind your donors of their generosity and how important it has been.  This will help to ensure that their generosity continues.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping to increase fundraising capacity.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the newsletter