Simply ways that even small non-profits can thank their donors

thankyou1As many of you know, I’m on a temporary assignment for the next few months working with a group of 20 non-profit organizations throughout New Mexico and West Texas. Last night was my first site visit, and the executive director did something that inspired this morning’s post about personal (yet simple) ways to thank your donors.

So, the first meeting went like most first meetings go.

There was a lot of energy and excitement. There was sharing of journey lines and stories. There was show-n-tell (e.g. sharing reports, documents, examples of how things are done, etc).

During one part of the meeting, I started talking about the importance of donor stewardship and making it as personal as possible. The executive director pulled off of her desk a simple thank you card and handed it to me to demonstrate they knew what they were doing.

thankyou2This is what I saw:

  • It was a simple card that could be run through a printer
  • The front side of the card had a picture of one of their clients (as I recall the picture composition expressed a sense of mission-focus and gratitude)
  • There was a written note on the inside of the card thanking the donor for their contribution. There was a promise that they’d put the gift to good use. It was signed by the executive director.

The executive director said they change the picture on the outside of the card every few months to keep things fresh.

Nice job! Simple — personal — effective! Any size non-profit organization can do something like this. Scalable!

As I drove to my hotel, I started thinking about a few other expressions of thanks and gratitude that I’ve personally received in the last few weeks from non-profits I donate to back home in Illinois.

I already shared with you one experience I had a few weeks ago when I wrote a post titled “Handwritten letters … Simple yet powerful“.

Here are a few things I’ve received in recent weeks that you might consider as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday . . .


thankyou3In recent weeks, I’ve started receiving phone calls from board volunteers thanking me for my support of their agency.

Penelope Burk explains in her book — Donor Centered Fundraising — that donor retention is as simple as one-two-three:

  1. Express sincerely gratitude for every gift regardless of its size
  2. Circle back around and show/tell the donor that their contribution has been used in the way the agency had promised it would be during the solicitation call
  3. Circle back around and show/tell the donor that their gift had an impact and produced the intended effect (e.g. outcomes)

It is clear to me the phone script from which  board members were reading was written in a way to assure me that my contribution was used appropriately and achieved the desired effect that had been promised to me. Yay . . . bravo!

As a donor, I love getting periodic updates where the person on the other end of the line (preferably someone I know) shares good news.

Phone-a-thons are easy. Your agency has board volunteers and both you and the volunteers own phones. Spend a little time writing a thoughtful script and you too can employ a very effective stewardship strategy during this Thanksgiving season.

Simple — personal — effective — scalable! Perfect!

Text message video

OK, this last example gets an A+ for creativity.  🙂

One day last week I received a text message from a local executive director and personal friend. When I opened it, there was a link to a video. Since I know this person, I clicked it and trusted there wasn’t a virus at the other end.

The video was no longer than 7 to 10 second long.

It was a child sitting at a desk. They had a very big smile on their face. They simply said, “Thank you for your support of the Boys & Girls Club. Your contribution is helping keep me out of trouble after-school. And I can get into a lot of trouble.”


Cute — adorable — heart-felt — to the point. They really did have me at hello. LOL

When I followed up with the executive director later in the week, I asked how difficult it had been to produce that video and text. Her response surprised me.

She said it was simple because almost every cell phone now has a camera and text capabilities. The hardest thing about the entire project was identifying the kids and preparing them with the right message.

Simple — personal — effective — scalable! Perfect!

What is your agency doing to thank its donors this Thanksgiving and holiday season? Please scroll down and share your ideas in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on November 21, 2013, in Fundraising, nonprofit, resource development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. One thing we do to recognize new donors is to send them a library card from one of the libraries we have in Haiti, which through their donation, they help to fund. The card is slipped into a hand written thank you note on either a photo notecard from one of our trips to Haiti, or in a handmade card from Haiti usually with banana leaf art on the front. We get great feedback about the library cards which are printed in Haitian Creole and have a unique identifying number. It’s just a fund little souvenir!

    We also make sure, as much as possible, when using photo notecards that the card fits the donor. For our technology-loving friends, we send pics of our computer lab being used. For school teachers and parents of young children, we use pics of our team doing activities with kids. One of my favorites though is our founder and board chair training the staff, writing on a big piece of cardboard propped on a chair because we didn’t have a whiteboard at the time. It’s depicts exactly what we’re doing and what we have to work with when we’re there. From the feedback we get, it seems donors truly connect with our mission when they receive this type of thanks, and they feel good about their donation. Which in turn makes me feel good 🙂

    • Awesome ideas, Dana. Thank you for sharing. I especially LOVE the level of personalization your are attaining with your stewardship and donor appreciation efforts. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing. Hoepfully, your ideas will inspire others to do these simple things to thank and appreciate their donors this Thanksgiving season.

  1. Pingback: November Nonprofit Blog Carnival | Giving Thanks and Gratitude - Pamela Grow | Pamela Grow

  2. Pingback: The importance of gift acknowledgement with matching gift donors | DonorDreams Blog

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