Seven Ways to Thank Your Donor Throughout the Year

This holiday season, we take time out of our busy lives to give thanks for our blessings. Before you pass the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, give thanks to your donors, now and throughout the year.


The rule of thumb says to thank each donor seven times. In the spirit of giving, I suggest 7 ways to thank your donors throughout the year.

1. Every donor should receive an official thank you letter and tax receipt within 48 hours of making a gift. Online gifts should receive an immediate email reply thanking them for the gift followed by an official thank you letter and receipt in the mail within 48 hours.

2. Donors do not make a second gift because they did not know the impact of their gift. You can fix that. Every donor should receive a communication - an annual report or letter - outlining the impact of their gift before receiving another request for funds. While the format matters little (other than time and cost considerations), the messages should focus on the impact that each gift had on the clients served.

3. Host an exclusive donor recognition dinner, reception or event. These events should sincerely thank donors for their contribution. Ask a client to speak - from his or her heart - about the difference the donors made in their lives.  Nothing more clearly demonstrates the impact these gifts made than to hear it from the beneficiary.

4. Ask the executive director, board members, volunteers or clients to make thank you calls. I received a thank you call from an organization a few years ago.  They left a brief message on my answering machine, and I still remember the details of that call today. It made an impact.

5. Ask the executive director, board members, volunteers, staff, or clients to send a handwritten thank you note. How often do you receive a handwritten note? Their scarcity makes handwritten notes all the more special. Keep a packet of organizational notecards in your office and distribute them to your key volunteers. The few minutes it takes to write a few notes each week will reap benefits manifold.

6. Provide donors with exclusive access to organizational functions. Donors have a passion for your mission; give them an opportunity to engage deeper in that mission. This comes more easily for organization like museums and arts organizations, but all organizations can think creatively. Offer special events or behind the scene access to your daily functions. Dinners with the CEO and other organizational leaders also offer exclusivity to thank your donors.

7. Send cards throughout the year: birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, or other holiday of relevance to your organization (e.g., Breast Cancer Awareness month, beginning of the school year). Most people get inundated with cards around Christmas and Hanukah; your card will stand out if you recognize them during other holidays.