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7 tried-and-true methods to show donors appreciation

November 02, 2021
A nonprofit professional adds sticky notes to a see-through display to brainstorm methods to show donor appreciation with her team.

Everyone enjoys being appreciated and shown some love. With the integration of technology into our lives, it is easier than ever before for nonprofit organizations to reach out to their donors to say thank you. However, it’s important to create a culture of gratitude where we move beyond what is expected.

Thanking donors and showing appreciation when they least expect keeps donors engaged and encourages their continued support. Let’s dive into some methods you can use to show your nonprofit donors your appreciation!

1. Show post-gift appreciation

An important time to show donors appreciation is after they make a gift to your nonprofit. If you’re using an online donation platform, anyone making a donation online receives an automated receipt. You can easily include a quick “thank you” on this receipt so that the donor immediately receives some form of gratitude.

If a donor sends in a check, transfers funds electronically, or drops off an in-kind gift, the first letter they receive acknowledges that gift and offers an IRS-required tax receipt. Adding a quick thank-you note to gift acknowledgment increases the chances of another gift in the future.

But a transactional thank-you note is the minimum nonprofits should do. To truly show donors appreciation, nonprofits need to move beyond transactional gratitude to relational gratitude, as seen in the examples below.

2. Send a personalized video message

The more personal our touchpoints with a donor are, the better. By mentioning the donor’s name and contribution in a thank-you video, you immediately grab their attention and help them feel appreciated.

While email and direct mail correspondence can be personalized, video messages are even more personalized. This is because they speak to the effort your nonprofit is making to show donors appreciation—filming or creating a thank-you video is a complicated and involved process. For greater impact, film your nonprofit’s beneficiaries personally thanking your donor.

3. Write thank-you notes

Writing thank-you notes is an excellent way for your nonprofit board to get involved and show donors appreciation. Involving your board members is a great way to show donors how much your nonprofit values them, which makes donors feel special and encourages them to make future gifts.

At the beginning of each board meeting, have the board members take a few moments to write thank-you notes to the most recent donors. While many board members are more than willing to help, they are usually very busy and finding the time can be tough. Taking a few moments during a meeting to write notes ensures that the notes are written and doesn’t require additional time and attention from the members.

4. Make phone calls

A phone call is a wonderful way to show donors appreciation. This option is particularly appealing for major donors, who are making large gifts and deserve some form of personalized recognition. Have your board members take charge of calls to major donors to show them how much your nonprofit values their support.

If you are hoping to encourage board engagement in donor communications, begin with stewardship. Each month, invite board members to call every new donor to thank them for their generosity and to listen to what inspired their gift. It will be much easier for board members to call to thank someone than to ask for money. And from the donor’s perspective, receiving a phone call for a gift will make them feel appreciated and let them know that their gift is important to your nonprofit.

5. Send a small token of appreciation

Gifts are a tangible token of your appreciation and can inspire a donor’s continued support. Consider sending the following gifts to donors:

  • Herbal tea bags: You can even include a handwritten note telling the donor to enjoy a cup of tea on your nonprofit’s behalf.
  • Small herb packet: Aside from being a sweet gesture, sending an herb packet like mint, basil, or thyme can be symbolic—you are thanking your donors for planting seeds for the future.
  • Refrigerator magnet or sticker: Make sure that magnets and stickers are branded to your nonprofit with your colors and logo. You might even include something about your nonprofit’s purpose on it.

These are inexpensive ways to show donors appreciation. By sending small gifts, you will let donors know you’re thinking about them and appreciate what they do for you. Plus, they keep your organization at the top of your donors’ minds as part of the broader donor cultivation process.

6. Send birthday and holiday cards

Many other organizations, such as medical practitioners or insurance companies, have adopted the habit of sending birthday cards to their customers. It’s a tried-and-true method of showing your gratitude, and if your donor management system allows you to track donor birthdates, your nonprofit should begin this practice as well.

Aside from birthdays, you can also send greeting cards for holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. When sending these cards, remember to add a personal note, perhaps sharing why their support is important to your community. Let them know how their engagement falls in line with the holiday spirit and how grateful you are for their continued support.

7. Establish a celebration day

In a calendar filled with national appreciation and awareness days, it’s important to take the time to celebrate your nonprofit’s purpose. Establishing a day that is meaningful to the entire organization allows you to celebrate your community and raise awareness at the same time. Be sure to include donors, volunteers, staff, and program participants in the celebration.

Remember, when you show donors appreciation, thank them for their generosity and kindness, instead of for their generous donations. This brings the focus back to the donor, not the donation.

Showing gratitude is key

In the end, exactly what you do to show donors appreciation is not as critical as the fact that you do something beyond the gift acknowledgment receipt. Thank them when they don’t expect it and ensure they understand the impact of their contribution.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing