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The #1 Reason Donors Keep Giving (And 10 Strategies to Make it Happen)

Friday, December 08, 2017 9:26 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)



Regina Pinney

Executive Director

Regina@nonprofnetwork.org






December is the giving month. According to Charity Navigator, 31% of annual giving occurs in the month of December and 12% of annual giving occurs on the last 3 days of the year. Which means that you will be sending lots of thank you’s in the coming weeks.  


How much planning have you done around the strategy and content of those thank you letters?


If your answer is "little-to-none," then know this:


The number 1 reason that people keep giving is because they were thanked well. 


Let's dive in.


The follow up and thank you to a gift is the most important step of the donor journey. Thoughtful and strategic follow-though helps you build a stronger bond with your donor, it connects them with the impact of their gift, and it communicates their active role in your success. 


When done well, a thank you may be the reason a donor considers giving an increased gift next time. Remember, it costs less to retain a donor than it does to attract a new one. Fundraising expert Harvey McKinnon says “Donor loyalty is not about the donor being loyal to you, it is you being loyal to the donor.”



Here are some simple strategies to ensure your thank you is impactful and works toward retaining your donors.


1.     Make it prompt.

  • A really prompt thank you note impresses your donor. It indicates to them that your organization is well run.
  • A great rule of thumb is “Thank before you Bank” – meaning, put the thank you in the mail before you deposit the check.
  • During December or other high donation times, be sure to make time every day to work on your thank you’s.

2.     Make it personal.

  • Use “I” and “we.”
  • Count the times you use the word “I/we” and make sure the number of times you use “you” is far greater. Give your donor all the credit.
  • Be warm – remember, you are thanking a friend
  • Use casual writing, this isn’t the time to be ultra –professional. Use contractions such as We’ll rather than We will.
  • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

3.     Start in a personal way.

  • Yes: Dear Ms. Smith or better, Dear Jane - Never: Dear Friend.
  • Hint: use technology to help personalize the letter as much as possible.
  • Never, never, never begin with “on behalf of . . .”
  • Try “I’m so happy to hear from you!” or “You have made my day!”


4.     Use a warm tone.

  • Be sincere.
  • Show thoughtfulness.
  • You spent all that time writing notes on the solicitation letters – but usually, a donor won’t read the solicitation letter but will read the Thank You! Use the space and the paper wisely!
  • Don’t forget to send warm wishes in the thank you!


5.     Be emotional.

  • Don’t bury it. Wear your heart on your sleeve.
  • Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.
  • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
  • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
  • “Because of your gift, a family will have . . . or a kid will get . . . art and music will . . . our water will be cleaner.”
  • "Your gift is helping to improve the lives of . . .”


6.     Send a real letter, not a pre-printed card.

  • Never send a pre-printed card. It’s just too impersonal.
  • Your donor has just sent you their money. They are saying that they believe in you and trusts you.
  • Sending a pre-printed card is a turn off – no matter what the size of the gift.


7.     Thank smaller gifts warmly.

  • All sized gifts get warm, prompt, personal thank yous.
  • Send thank yous for in-kind gifts


8.     Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

  • Acknowledge the long term partnership your donor has with your organization.
  • Celebrate the ongoing relationship


9.     Send more than one thank you letter.

  • All from different people at the organization – clients, other volunteers, other donors, etc.
  • In this day of shrinking donor dollars, this small step could help your organization stand out and forge a much stronger relationship with your donors.
  • Some organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters. This process helps connect board members to the fundraising process.


10.    Offer a next step

  • Invite them to an upcoming event or encourage them to check out your website for interesting articles
  • Invite them to sign up for your emails or to subscribe to your Facebook or Instagram to see their donation in action
  • Note: You do NOT say “Please donate more!”


We know that many donors don’t give again because they weren’t thanked properly. 'Tis the season of giving. Remember the power of a strong thank you!


Do you want coaching on how to strategically 
build thank yous in your fund development?  




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