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Your quick checklist for brilliant donor thank-you calls

July 31, 2021
A woman stands over a desk with a phone in one hand, taking notes while conducting donor thank-you calls.

A donor thank-you call strategy is a key and highly effective component of your nonprofit organization’s stewardship plan. Showing timely and genuine appreciation for your supporters’ gifts is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to strengthen donor relationships and improve retention.

Let’s dive into five steps to establishing a brilliant donor thank-you call strategy!

1. Determine who will make the calls

Meet with your staff and find out who from your organization is willing and available to call. Some caller candidates include:

  • Board members
  • Staff members
  • Nonprofit beneficiaries
  • Volunteers

From these groups, choose those who will be passionate and show genuine gratitude when calling your donors. You want your supporters to feel valued and excited about being involved with your organization, so make sure the right people are reaching out.

2. Decide who to call

Calling every person who donated to a specific campaign might seem ideal, but you can get more value from your calls by focusing on a select group of high-impact donors. Specifically, make sure to call the following groups:

  • Major donors. These donors make substantial donations to your nonprofit. As part of your major gift stewardship, you have likely already built one-on-one relationships through multiple forms of outreach, including phone calls. For major donors, consider having your major gift officer handle their thank-you call. 
  • Recurring donors. These individuals provide reliable revenue each month. Continued stewardship through personal thank-you calls can help retain them long-term.
  • First-time donors. First-time donors are more likely to continue giving to nonprofits that reach out to thank them for their gifts. Aim to get in touch with your new donors as quickly as possible to build relationships and start them on the path to making a second gift.
  • Volunteers. Although they aren’t donors, volunteers help out in other ways. Plus, volunteers can become some of your most reliable donors with the right relationship and appreciation strategies.

For each group, create a unique call strategy that includes who should call and what details should be included in the thank-you call script. For example, a call from your volunteer manager will likely be meaningful to your volunteers, whereas first-time donors will probably be content with being reached out to by a volunteer. 

3. Determine when to call

Once a donor makes a gift, you should follow up with them within 24-48 hours. Your callers can decide when to reach out on their own, or you can hold a thank-a-thon, where calls are made as a group. You can turn thank-you calls into a fun event that brings people from within your organization closer together.

Schedule calls during a time that is respectful of your donors’ personal lives. Consider calling during weekday evenings, after your donors leave work. Your calls should be short and sweet, and if your donors don’t pick up, leave a quick thank-you voice message!

4. Plan your thank-you call script

A thank-you call script should be created in advance and shared with anyone responsible for calling donors. Here is an example of a thank-you call script:

“Hi, [donor name]! I’m [caller name] and I’m a [nonprofit role] calling from [organization name] to thank you for your recent donation of [dollar amount donated]. I’m so grateful for your generosity, and all of us from [nonprofit name] really appreciate your support. We can’t wait to see the impact that your gift and the gifts of others will make to [cause/campaign name]! Thanks again and enjoy the rest of your evening!”

The script should primarily be used as a guideline and not repeated word-for-word. A phone call that comes across as spontaneous will feel much more genuine, but you’ll also want to have talking points established in advance to answer donors’ questions and carry on a brief conversation.

5. Keep records of your thank-you calls

You can use your CRM or other donor management tools to keep a detailed record of your calls. Track which donors you called, when you called them, and what you thanked them for. You should also note down if you discuss anything that requires further action. For instance, if you told a donor you’d send them an email update, you should either schedule it on your calendar or do it right away.

By keeping a detailed record of your calls, you can measure the impact they have on your donors. Take note of each donor’s engagement after your call to continue tracking your relationship. Specifically, document actions such as:

  • Any additional donations made
  • Volunteer hours contributed
  • Fundraising champions developed
  • New supporters gained through existing donors

This record will allow you to see the difference in engagement and support following your phone calls. If you see a positive difference, you should develop a strategy that incorporates calling your supporters on a more frequent and strategic basis.

Expressing gratitude with thank-you calls

Donor thank-you calls are an important part of any nonprofit’s communication strategy. By using these calls effectively, donors will be more likely to give again or give larger amounts. No matter if you’re speaking to a first-time donor or a major donor, it’s essential that you express your genuine appreciation and gratitude. After all, donors are crucial to helping you fulfill your nonprofit’s purpose.

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