Always Be Thanking: Bring an Abundance of Gifts from Being Thankful

advice fundraising thanking Sep 13, 2021

Always Be Thanking: Bring an Abundance of Gifts from Being Thankful

If fundraising professionals could do just one thing that would improve the culture of their organization and raise more money, it would be thanking everyone for everything. Or, as a post-it-note on my desk read before I was in this habit: ALWAYS BE THANKING. Spending 15 minutes per day writing thank you notes will bring an abundance of gifts simply from your thankfulness. Being genuinely thankful is all that’s needed to generate the biggest ROI you can ever produce. Now, the results are not instantaneous, but it builds a culture of abundance. When people are appreciated, when they feel their gift was helpful, and when they know the impact of their giving, they will give more often. It’s science. I have never met a donor who stopped giving to an organization because they felt too appreciated or because they were genuinely and specifically thanked for everything they did. Quite the opposite.

Always Be Thanking

Thank everyone for everything. Donors for gifts (including gifts in-kind), volunteers for their contributions of time and talent), fans for their loyalty, constituents for being change-makers, board and committee members for their guidance, etc.


Be Specific

Ditch the boilerplate and thank the donor for their specific contribution and explain the exact effect/impact of it on your organization. Include details about how their gift will be used. “Providing lunch for our staff really conveyed to all of us how much you care.” “Tiering up your gift despite the financial difficulties you and your husband are experiencing is humbling. It shows your virtuous and caring heart and it moves me to see you putting others first like this.” “Your gift to our technology fund will allow us to upgrade the security cameras and prevent another break-in, keeping our staff and volunteers safe.”


From the Hand and the Heart

Handwrite your thank you note, including the envelope.


Get Personal
  • Always, always, always address the donor by name on thank yous (no “Dear Friend of [Organization Name]” or “Dear Valued Supporter”)
  • Mention their family by name
  • Reference a previous conversation
  • If you do not know them, look in your donor management software and use some data: “You give every year around this time,” “This is your fourth gift and I want to especially thank you for your consistent annual support,” “Wow! You’ve given more this year than ever before, and I want you to know we appreciate your faithful support and value you as a partner.”
Because of You

...Not the Kelly Clarkson song. In all communications with donors, we treat them as if everything that your organization has done was because of them (and other supporters). Use the word “you” not “we”. For example, swap “we were able to accomplished X, Y, and Z goals” with “Because of you 170 families are fed, 28 homeless families are off the streets and in warm housing, and 447 of our city’s homeless have had their dignity restored!”


Be a Point of Contact

Include contact information (especially if the person is new). “This is my cell (___) ____ - ________. I’d love to stay in touch. Feel free to call or text me when you get this to chat.”


Be Timely

Get a thank you out the day you receive the gift or within 48 hours. Even if you need to send it on the weekend. Thanking is not a burden, it’s a blessing. DO IT.


Details, Details, Details…

Use blue pen or some sort of colored ink to make sure it is obvious that it was hand-signed – especially if it is typewritten (such as donation receipt).


Be Sincere

If you are not truly grateful, get a thank you from someone who is. Someone who benefited from your program, another staff member, or a board member.


Triad of Thanks

Thank at least three times in the letter. It should always be the first line, you should thank them again when you explain the impact of their gift. And you should close the letter with a thanks again.


Make Your Thanks Automatic

Carefully craft and customize your automated thank you email for online gifts. Log into your donor management system or your online giving software and spend time customizing the letter(s) that come immediately after someone gives. If it's possible, be sure to have a unique thank you based upon the designation or fund that people give to. This should NOT replace the rest of the thank yous but it is immediate and could act as a great first impression until you thank them properly.


Level-Up Your Fundraising


Thanks for the Sake of Thanks

This is ONLY to thank not for ANYTHING else. Never even remotely indicate you expect or hope for a future gift. And definitely do not ASK. Also, include NO calls to action – do not include a survey, a “please return this,” or a “let me know…”. JUST thanking. 

Call Every Donor

If you want to take your thanking to the next level, call every new donor within 24 hours of their gift to thank them. Not sure what a donor thank-you call might entail?

  • Thank them.
  • Let them know you received their gift and how it will be used.
  • Ask them how they heard about your organization.
  • Get any personal information you can about them to add to their donor record, making future interactions more meaningful.