It goes without saying that donors play the biggest role in your nonprofit’s success and sustainability. But do your donors understand how much you appreciate them? Don’t just assume they do—make sure they hear it from you directly.
It takes intentional planning to thank your supporters in a way that resonates. Follow this comprehensive guide to get inspired and express the appropriate appreciation to your community.
3 Key Reasons to Thank Your Donors
1. It shows you care about them, too
The key to effective donor stewardship is ensuring each supporter finds value in their relationship with your organization. Proving that you care about each donor on a personal level can help build a stronger sense of trust and connection.
Reciprocate the support they’re offering you by consistently checking in with them. This not only improves their rapport with your team, but it also strengthens their tie to your timely goals and long-term mission.
2. It keeps your mission top of mind
The more often you’re able to communicate with your donors, the more visible you are to them. Thanking donors early and often gives you the opportunity to remain at the forefront of their minds. The consistency of your gratitude helps remind your donors that they still care about your cause.
This communication is also a universally positive one. Rather than just another ask for donations, this sign of appreciation showcases the importance of every supporter’s role in fulfilling your mission.
3. It increases the chances that donors will return to give again
What’s rewarded gets repeated, so reward your supporters with sincere gratitude to ensure they keep coming back.
“Nonprofits who raise a lot of money get really good at thanking and reporting,” said fundraising expert Otis Fulton in a recent conversation about the psychology of giving. “They thank people a lot. But too many organizations neglect these two steps.”
You get it—thanking donors is important. It’s a valuable way to keep them connected and engaged with your cause before, during, and after each campaign. But maybe understanding the reason for gratitude was never your issue and you’re more curious about the practical side. Well, we’ve got you covered.
16 Ideas for How to Thank Nonprofit Donors
1. Show Appreciation on Your Website
Your nonprofit’s website is not just the digital hub for communications and fundraising, it’s also a valuable platform for donor appreciation.
Create a supporters page on your site. While this is most commonly used to highlight corporate sponsors and foundations, it’s a simple way to elevate individual donors too. You can also use your donation landing pages, blog, or email newsletter to share a few of your donors’ stories and the reasons why they give.
Make-A-Wish Southern Florida set up a great donor appreciation landing page to publicly thank their donors and remind them of their meaningful impact.
2. Highlight Donors on Social Media
Appreciation posts are great pieces of content to add to your seasonal social media calendar. Even if you don’t name specific donors, you can give a general thanks with some impactful statistics.
Charity:water provides a refreshing example of this in their recent Instagram post. The photo and caption recognize a local elementary class that gives back to the clean water organization through an annual lemonade stand.
3. Craft a Personalized Thank You Email
Greet donors with a timely, personalized thank you email to ensure they feel valued. Segment donors by gift size and provide a few examples of the tangible impact their donation will make.
The Red Cross does a great job of sending out personalized emails to those who support their cause through monetary gifts or blood donations. These emails tell a story of a real person who benefited from donors’ live-saving contributions.
4. Lean Into the Power of Video
Video is one of the most powerful marketing tools to make an emotional impact. Take advantage of its effective format to make a lasting impression on your loyal donor community.
The Ronald McDonald House has an entire library of YouTube videos that recognize their donors’ impact. It features several messages of thanks that emphasize their community’s critical role in reaching their goals.
5. Pick Up the Phone or Send a Text
When you pick up the phone or send a quick text to thank a donor for their gift, it offers an opportunity to connect with that person in a more relaxed, organic way. Plus, a three-minute phone call can increase first-time donor retention by 30%. If done well, this small interaction can make a donor’s day and help build a lasting connection with your organization.
6. Send Donation Thank You Letters
Perhaps you’re sending an automatic email to notify a donor that you received their gift. But what if you followed that up with an old-fashioned handwritten letter, too?
Since your letter would arrive some time after the donation was made, it can serve as the perfect touchpoint to re-engage your supporter with a reminder of their impact.
7. Prioritize Handwritten Thank You Notes
A handwritten note from a staff member or volunteer adds a meaningful, personal touch to your stewardship strategy. These notes are so effective because a donor can immediately see the time and effort it took for someone to write the message.
Come up with a loose structure to follow for each letter to ensure the sentiment remains consistent. Keep it relatively brief to avoid losing the donor’s interest before they make it to the bottom, but don’t forget to add any details that speak to that person on an individual level.
8. Send Anniversary Cards
Along with their name and contact information, the date of a donor’s first gift is a great piece of information to keep on hand. Sending donors an annual anniversary card is a fun way to celebrate their loyalty and commitment to your cause.
9. Celebrate Donors in Your Annual Report
It’s common for nonprofits to include a running list of donors and sponsors in their annual reports. Think about how you can bring that list to life to emphasize the critical role each donor plays in fulfilling your mission.
Send them a print or digital copy of the report when it’s ready to let them know they’re part of something bigger, and consider how you can promote the report to your larger community to elevate each donor on an even larger scale.
10. Send a Welcome Swag Package
Present donors with a thank you package to welcome them in style. This package could include a T-shirt, water bottle, or canvas tote, as well as tools and resources to learn more about your organization.
11. Acknowledge Donors During Events
Call out major donors by name at your next fundraising event. Invite them to stand up and be recognized by all attendees, or potentially speak on behalf of their experience with your organization.
Before publicly recognizing donors at your next event, ask whether they’re comfortable being honored in front of an audience. If they politely decline, make sure your staff thanks them personally at the event in a more private way. You could also send a free entry ticket as another form of appreciation.
12. Give an Office Tour
Invite some of your donors to an exclusive tour of your nonprofit office. This is a chance to build a face-to-face relationship with your supporters and expose them to a glimpse of what their gifts make possible for your work and operations.
13. Share Some Exclusive Incentives
Nonprofit donors don’t just give to get something in return. However, providing some incentives doesn’t hurt. Create giving levels to thank donors with specific items or opportunities in accordance with their gift size. This presents another good chance to share some swag with your community so they can publicly promote their support of your cause.
14. Provide Internal Giving Updates
Not everyone on your staff is tasked with fundraising efforts or works directly with donors. However, they can all be a part of thanking supporters.
In your staff meetings, share brief updates on who’s been giving and how they’re being recognized. This keeps fundraising top of mind for everyone and ensures all employees are familiar with the names and faces of your supporters.
Here are examples of nonprofits thanking their recurring donors in a meaningful way.
15. Thank Your Staff, Too
It’s not enough to just thank your donors. Your staff and volunteers play an equal role in bringing your mission to life. Be sure to use similarly creative techniques you’re employing with donors to recognize your internal team. Preventing staff turnover is critical to the sustainability of your work.
16. Make It Count
Keep an eye on what makes for a quality thank you email or note. Ensure every communication you send genuinely showcases this sentiment and has the desired effect.
Don’t just thank donors to check off the box—show your gratitude because you actually mean it. Make sure they feel your sincerity and hear it from you consistently. Consider varying the format, style, or content of your thank you messaging so it continues to feel fresh and genuine.
How Will You Thank Donors?
Neglecting to thank a donor is akin to forgetting about them or being unappreciative. Remind them that without their support, your organization wouldn’t be able to deliver on its commitment to your community. Although saying thank you isn’t enough on its own to nurture donors into life-long supporters, it’s a critical step in the larger stewardship journey.