How well do you thank your donors?

publication date: Jul 29, 2013
author/source: Heather Brown

Stewardship is such an important part of the donor relationship. That’s why I’m so pleased that nonprofits (including some of our clients) are paying closer attention to donor stewardship and accountability.Heather Brown photo

Appropriately acknowledging a gift includes thanking donors promptly for their generosity, and reporting back on how their dollars were spent. You can go about acknowledging gifts in a thoughtful way by developing an appropriate stewardship calendar.

If you already have one, I’d like to suggest that you take a few minutes over the summer to review your existing calendar, and look for opportunities to refine your stewardship process.    

First and foremost: the thank-you letter

Consider sending all of your donors a personalized thank-you letter that speaks directly to them about the specific area they’ve supported. If you don’t have the resources, or if preparing a personalized letter will keep you from sending the tax receipt within 48 hours, a standard thank-you letter will do the trick. It’s even better if you can add a live signature and handwritten note!

For new donors, it’s important that you acknowledge their first gift and make them feel welcome. Ensure you include a name and contact phone number in case they have any questions. You should also include additional information about your organization, such as an impact report or newsletter that highlights the work being done, thanks to donor support. A donor preference survey would be a great addition as well.

Call for a lasting impression

In my past life, calling donors just to say thank you was part of my work. I can’t tell you how often donors were left completely and pleasantly surprised when they received a call thanking them for their gift, and nothing more!  I used to refer to this as “deer caught in the headlights” because you could just hear them waiting with bated breath for the segue into a donation request. Look for opportunities to engage your volunteers and board members and coordinate a “thank-a-thon.” I guarantee your donors will love it!  

Include your business card

It’s important for your donors to know that they can reach out you (a live person!) if ever they have any questions about your work or the organization, or if they misplace their tax receipt.  

Include other opportunities

Donors want to play an active role in the charities and causes they support. Some donors may be willing to volunteer their time or skills, while some may choose to become a monthly donor or make a gift in their will. A brief insert that promotes one or both of these options will invite your donors to increase their commitment and help keep these giving options top of mind.    

Include a business reply envelope

Encourage two-way communication by including a pre-paid return envelope. You may even get a surprise gift!.

Any ideas of your own you’d like to share?

I hope this has given you something to think about as we head into the dog days of summer. I’d love to hear from you regarding how promptly your donors receive a tax receipt for their gift and the types of information you send their way.  

Stay tuned for part two next month, when my colleague Holly Wagg tackles stewardship ideas geared to online donors.

After more than 10 years in the nonprofit sector helping to raise money for various worthy charities, Heather Brown decided to join the Good Works team and put her experience to work to help Good Works’ clients reach their fundraising goals. She’s passionate about direct mail and legacy marketing and strives to help her clients make a positive impact on the community.

Contact Heather at; follow her on Twitter, @Heather_Brown2

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