The Power of the Unexpected Thank You


I just finished teaching two classes in the Fundraising and Philanthropy Communication Program at the University of Iowa School of Journalism. The last day of class, two students send me simple emails expressing their thanks for the class.


Thank you so much for a great semester! I learned a lot about fundraising and am excited to use what I learned in my future as a volunteer at Salute, Inc. Have a great summer! -Mary 

I wanted to email you to say thank you for such a wonderful and engaging class! Having a teacher that was so passionate about fundraising made coming to class and learning about fundraising fundamentals constantly exciting. As a senior, I greatly appreciated your positivity and how applicable course material was to all students. I hope you have a great summer! Best, Hannah


Those emails made my day. While I certainly appreciated the sentiments expressed, I appreciated them even more because I did not expect them. They came out of the blue.

In fundraising, we teach that you should thank a donor seven times and get a thank you out the door within 48 hours of receiving a gift. Donors “expect” those thank yous. But what about the unexpected thank you? Did you ever just stop and call your donor out of the blue to thank him or her? Send a note for no reason at all or send an article that reminded you of them?

I gave a small sponsorship to a local organization and over the course of the next month or so, numerous staff and volunteers made a point to thank me for that gift when I saw them in person. I got the usual “official” thank yous, which I appreciated, but that they remembered my gift when they saw me meant even more to me.

What ways can you let your donors know that you are thinking of them with an unexpected thank you?