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5 Inspiring Ideas for Thanking Your Donors

Thanksgiving is just days away and I’m thinking about one thing: gratitude

Note: This post is about gratitude in fundraising, but I’m also thinking about how we show that as reverence to the Native Americans whose land was stolen. Before you read this post, check out this map to find out which tribes’ land you may be on. 

Your donors keep your lights on, fund your programs, and keep your mission going forward. So how do you tell them this holiday season? How do you make sure they feel gratitude from your organization? How can you cultivate that warm and fuzzy feeling that keeps them attending your events, volunteering, and donating money to your cause? This blog post will give you some ideas of the most creative, inventive, and fun ways to thank your donors that get them more engaged in your organization.

Make a video

With the abundance of cell phones with video capability, it’s easier than ever for your nonprofit to make a simple thank-you video for donors. This gives your donors an inside look into your organization that they can watch from the comfort of their own home. Walk them through your organization and cue up some staff members to share a simple message or just a wave. Here are some ideas for creative donor videos, or you can always do a series of interviews like Minnesota Public Radio did!

Also, make sure whatever technology you’re working with is optimized for mobile, and taking advantage of new technology to share your nonprofit’s story!

Host a VIP event

VIP donor cultivation events are incredibly effective at drawing your supporters closer to your organization. For best results, make sure you follow a few key rules:

  1. Send the invite from someone important
  2. Make it exclusive
  3. Offer something interesting, such as a sought-after speaker or important update
  4. Don’t make an ask
  5. Follow up

Those five steps will lead you to a fun donor event that draws your supported even closer to your mission, giving them something to think about as they approach year-end giving.

Host a Thank-a-thon

While a donor may be used to hearing from the development director, they aren’t used to hearing from a doctor on staff or a social worker. Consider hosting an organization-wide thank-a-thon, where you get great social media content and donors get calls from all sides of your organization, not just the development team. Even your accountants can thank donors (see below)!

An accountant for Operation Smile thanking donors!

Donor Recognition Stickers

While NPR has does an incredible job at providing donor recognition gifts, it can seem intimidating (not to mention expensive). We recommend taking a page out of their book, but on the lower end of the budget. Stickers can give people a gratifying, externally-facing way to show their support for your organization while building awareness among their friends and family of your organization. Consider running a limited-edition pack of stickers and sending them out to your donors with a personalized thank you note!

Keep in mind, some donors don’t like to be thanked or given anything in return for their gift. It may be a good idea to give this gift for the donors on the lower end of the spectrum.

Personal Outreach

Okay, okay, so it’s not very creative. But personal outreach, a coffee, lunch, or even a phone call, may be the single most effective way to draw supporters closer to your organization. Especially for larger donors who are investing significant gifts in your organization, periodic personal meetings including an update on how their funds are being used are an essential part of donor stewardship. Make sure that whatever plan you come up with for thanking donors still feels personal and includes personal outreach to your largest, and most committed, donors.

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