Updated: Jun 2, 2022
To support your efforts at donor stewardship, we’ve curated a list of our top ten favorite ways to say “thank you.” Some of them come straight from nonprofits who have recently considered ways to increase creativity on this front.
Write a handwritten note. But not a boring one - something personal to the donor (ex. “Thank you for introducing me to a new Thai spot - I’m hooked!”) Focus on something specific that you did together or that made you think of that donor.
Allow the donor to select a name for a product or program element. Instead of naming something after the donor, invite the donor to choose names for the coffee beverage of the month, the school bus, or the new litter of puppies.
Go door-to-door. Local organizations can knock on doors just to say “thank you.” Bring program participants if at all possible.
Pick up the phone. Personal thank you calls from a well-known personality, NOT a robo-call, will go a very long way. The personality could be a celebrity who supports your organization, or simply the Executive Director.
Host a cultivation event. Create an event for the solitary purpose of thanking and engaging donors in the work of the organization. The only ask should be non-monetary, challenging donors to wrestle with the essential question that the organization wrestles with in some way (Mutuality means being affected by people. In what ways am I learning from or affected by someone else in my life?)
Create a personalized video. Shoot it from the field, the more “uncut” the better.
“We work in remote and hard to reach areas so many of our donors do not have the opportunity to do site visits. But we want to make sure all stakeholders--donors, patients, health workers, etc.--are as united as possible in the work to save lives so we bring them together via video. To thank our donors for their great generosity and show them the impact of their work, we create videos of the faces and places their donations impact.”
--LifeNet International, Washington, DC
Invite donors to a program event.
“The best thing I think we do for our closest donors is to invite them to attend one of our resident graduation ceremonies. It's the most powerful hour and a half, listening to the staff, counselors, and other residents share one after another about the growth they've seen in that person and the impact he or she has made on the lives of the other people in the home. It helps the new residents catch the vision of what they can achieve, and it helps our donors experience the HEART of what Providence Network is all about.”
--Providence Network, Denver, Colorado
Give donors a leading role.
“Prodigy Coffeehouse is an apprenticeship program for disconnected youth. We invite donors to attend a latte art throwdown where they can witness the talent that has been activated in apprentices through the program. At the throwdown, apprentices teach donors the essential elements of latte art and give them a chance to try it themselves. Then, donors are taught how to “judge” latte art, so they’re able to engage with apprentices right across the counter as they move through the brackets to the championship round.”
--Prodigy Coffeehouse, Denver, Colorado
Create a surprise.
“We walked a donor into a gymnasium with 200 plus kids holding a personalized thank you banner on butcher paper, screaming, and cheering. This brought tears to the donor’s eyes.”
--Sharefest, Los Angeles, California
Connect donors, tangibly, to their giving, even at great inconvenience.
‘At Morris Animal Foundation, we planned a stewardship excursion that took a donor out on a whale research ship in the North Atlantic. During the excursion, a Right Whale (a pretty cool species of whale) popped up on the side of the ship almost like she wanted to say, “thank you.” It was stunning and couldn’t have been planned.’ --Dan Reed.