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Thanking Donors: A Fundraiser's Quick Guide to Gratitude

Posted Feb 05, 2016 11:05 AM
For most nonprofits, donors are the backbone of their fundraising efforts. Without the generosity of individual gifts, most organizations couldn’t fully advance their missions.

As a fundraiser, you know your job isn’t done the second someone contributes. Instead, you need to continue engaging them to ensure they stick around. Inspiring continued support requires you to thank your donors in ways that resonate with them.

By going above and beyond to thank them, you’ll cultivate a culture of gratitude, helping to push your cause forward each day. To revitalize your donor appreciation strategy, we’ll cover these key topics:

  • Why Thanking Donors Matters
  • The Ideal Timing of Thank-You Messages
  • Genuine Ways to Thank Your Donors

Whether you’re in charge of major gifts or lower-tier donations, you’ll have everything you need to build a sustainable donor recognition strategy.

Why Thanking Donors Matters

Expressing appreciation is vital to your daily operations. At a minimum, you’ll show that you appreciate your supporters. Beyond that, reaching out to authentically thank donors allows you to accomplish the following:

  • Build trust: Thanking donors helps to build credibility. This can lead to stronger relationships and more long-term support as supporters consider you a trusted resource.
  • Encourage future giving: By showing gratitude to your donors, they’re more likely to give again. As eCardWidget’s donor retention guide explains, recognition can help future-proof operations since retained donors consistently contribute.
  • Demonstrate impact: Thanking donors is an opportunity to share their support’s impact and help them feel like they’re making a difference.
  • Inspire new donors: When you make donors feel valued, the word will get around. Whether you publicly or privately show recognition, prospects will see the gratitude you show. This, in turn, encourages them to give too.

Overall, thanking donors is a crucial part of fundraising. Doing so proactively will help build strong relationships and establish a culture of gratitude within your organization.

The Ideal Timing of Thank-You Messages

Your timing is almost as important as the content of your thank-you messages. For one, timely outreach establishes that you’re a professional organization that can steward donations responsibly. Plus, sending a well-timed thank-you message helps solidify a donation's impact in the donor's mind and increase their satisfaction with their decision.

You’ll want to let donors know you’re thinking of them by thanking them:

  • Immediately after a donation: Ideally, send a thank-you message within 48 hours of receiving the donation. Waiting longer may communicate that you don’t genuinely care about their support.
  • During key times of the year: Send thank-you messages to reconnect with donors during important times of the year, like birthdays, holidays, and cause awareness days. This lets donors know you’re thinking about them and want them to stick around.

Digital recognition is increasingly popular for delivering timely follow-up, especially with the rise of online fundraising. Of course, some still prefer traditional methods like handwritten letters, but consider digital alternatives when selecting time-efficient ways to thank donors.

Genuine Ways to Thank Your Donors

With the basics nailed down, start brainstorming ideas that will resonate with your audience. Remember to choose the ideas you think each donor will prefer. For example, some donors may prefer personal outreach, while others like a tangible token of appreciation. We’ve gathered a few ideas to get your creativity flowing.


Greeting cards help celebrate special occasions, send well wishes, and show someone you’re thinking about them. Nonprofits can even use them to express gratitude to supporters. With eCard creation tools, you can design charity eCards connected to your mission and send them directly to supporters.

There are several reasons to thank donors with eCards, including:

  • Cost efficiency. Compared to traditional paper cards, eCards are more budget-friendly since you can eliminate printing and postage costs.
  • Customizability. Create engaging designs branded to your cause. Then, personalize the message you send with each donor’s name, donation amount, and a special message.
  • Quick deliverability. There’s no need to fill out envelopes or wait for the post office to deliver cards. Instead, personalize and send eCards within seconds. After all, timeliness is key!

The personal touch charity eCards provide can go a long way in strengthening donor relationships. Jumping back to the idea of timeliness, you can even create designs for specific holidays to let your donors know you’re thinking about them on special occasions.

Phone Calls

A personal phone call from a staff member or volunteer can be powerful. With each phone call, try to accomplish three things:

  • Express appreciation for their generosity.
  • Provide updates on your organization’s progress.
  • Solicit feedback or other ideas for improvement.

NXUnite’s guide to donor recognition explains, "While an excellent way to express appreciation, this idea can be time-consuming. Try to limit phone calls to individuals who give a certain amount and prefer this form of recognition.” Using your time wisely will ensure you can cultivate more meaningful relationships.

Thoughtful Gifts

Everyone loves receiving a gift, especially when it's connected to something they care about. When thanking donors, consider these common gift ideas nonprofits use:

  • Branded merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, and mugs
  • Discounts to nonprofit events and local businesses
  • Gift baskets
  • Private tours of your facilities

Be mindful of the gifts you choose, so you don’t wind up spending too much on supporters’ gifts. After all, overspending might communicate that you’re not responsibly stewarding donations. Supporters want to see as much of their contributions going directly to your mission as possible. To do that, tailor the gift to suit the donation amount. For example, someone who donates $30 might receive a branded mug, while someone who donates $500 might receive a gift basket.

Whether they gave to a social fundraiser or purchased a fundraising product from your team, supporters deserve recognition. Make sure to thank each of your donors proactively. In turn, you’ll inspire them to stick around and continue giving to your cause. They may even encourage their friends to donate!