Don’t Let Your DAF Donors Fall through the Cracks of Your Thanking Process!


Could you imagine a situation where one of your most dedicated and generous donors gives your organization a gift… and you never acknowledge or thank them?

That would never happen, right?

But it’s happening accidentally more and more often…

More and more donors are giving gifts through Donor Advised Funds (DAFs).  Because the gift is often labeled as from “Fidelity Charitable” or “Network for Good” (or something similar), the donor who initiated the gift mistakenly goes un-acknowledged and un-thanked.

You might remember that a few years ago, when Twitter was still Twitter, there was an account called The Whiny Donor.

Whiny was a gift to the nonprofit world because she Tweeted what other donors were thinking but not saying.

And Whiny had some experience with DAF giving…


Another gem…

Whiny has since stopped Tweeting, but what she experienced as a DAF donor is still too common.

And here’s the thing… if this is happening to your donors, most of them won’t complain. They’ll simply stop giving because they start to feel like their giving doesn’t matter.

That’s why it’s so important to thank and steward your DAF donors.

As you’re looking at year-end reports, make note of any gifts that came from a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) like Fidelity Charitable, Schwab Charitable, Vanguard Charitable, Network for Good, or any community foundation. Double-check to make sure the donor who initiated the gift was thanked.

If you’re unsure whether a DAF donor has been thanked, reach out with a phone call, a handwritten note, a personal email thanking them for their kind and generous gift — I’m sure you would put a smile on your donor’s face.

Donors who give through DAFs are some of your org’s most faithful donors. You can stand out from the crowd by doing an excellent job of thanking and stewarding them when they give through their DAF.

Three Ways to Thank Your Donors in less than Five Minutes


You may have heard January called “Thankuary”…

It’s the perfect time to let your donors know how truly special and valuable they are.  After countless emails, letters and phone calls (hopefully) towards the end of the year, January is a natural time to say “thank you.”

So, here are 3 ways you can thank your donors today… and they all take less than 5 minutes!!

1.  Call a donor, say “thank you” and listen — Donors love to be thanked; they also love the chance to share why they gave.  They’ll be surprised and delighted you took the time to reach out to them personally, even if they don’t pick up.

2.  Write a handwritten note — Sending a personal note, written by a human (even if it isn’t you!), goes a long way.  Mail it on personal stationery, or even in a hallmark card-sized envelope.  It can be short and sweet.  They won’t forget it.

BONUS TIP: Want to reach even more donors?  Have a “thank you card party” at the office and give everyone 10 cards and a short script! 

3.  Forward an already-planned mass email — Does your organization already have a thank you email planned for January?  Take a minute to forward that to a special donor right from your email before the main email goes out to everyone.  You could even share a little “before and after story” that made you think of them.

Every 5 minutes counts!  How many donors can you thank today?! 

PS — Need more ideas for Thankuary?  Use this Cheat Sheet (with examples) for how to run a great Thankuary campaign!

The Antidote to Fundraising Fear Is…


So it turns out that the antidote to fundraising fear is a Swedish custom called “fika.”

Fika is pronounced “fee-kuh,” and it’s a custom of people getting together to have coffee and treats together. 

One of our customers practices fika each day, and here’s their genius move: while they are together, they open the mail and have an intentional, shared moment of gratitude for each gift.

I love it.  And, finding this out helped explain something I’d already noticed about this organization: the incredible grace and equanimity with which they handle complaints and pushback on their fundraising.

Now, fika and responding to complaints might not seem related, but they absolutely are…

Emotional Balance Sheet

You see, nonprofits tend not to emotionally acknowledge the generosity behind each gift that they receive. 

Usually this happens for two reasons:

  • The sheer volume of gifts makes it easier to think about each day’s gifts as “revenue” instead of individual acts of generosity and sacrifice.
  • The people who receive and process the gifts are often different from the people who send out the fundraising.  So the Fundraisers only experience the response to their work as a number on a spreadsheet. 

For many people in nonprofits and in Fundraising, even if the balance sheet fills up, there’s little emotional experience of the gifts.  The emotional balance sheet remains unfilled.    

So when a complaint comes in, the organization is knocked sideways by the emotion.  Suddenly they are dealing with a human with a complaint, not just “revenue” or a percentage point in the response rate.    

You know what happens next – the complaint receives outsized reaction.  There’s an immediate urge to change fundraising messaging or strategy to make sure this never happens again.  Some staff members wrongly assume that the Complainer is speaking for more people than him or herself.  Fears of the mythical “donor fatigue” are whispered.  Flee!  Run for the hills!  (I’ve written extensively about this in our free eBook about complaints.)

But when an organization has more of an emotional connection with all of the gifts that have come in – and all the generosity and emotion and sacrifice they represent – then a complaint or pushback from an internal stakeholder is just one piece of negative data. 

And it’s just one drop of negative data in an ocean of generosity and emotion and sacrifice.

In that case, the complaint is given the appropriate amount of attention.  No more and no less.  You’re so thankful for the 47 gifts that came in yesterday that you can easily respond to a complaint with warmth and compassion instead of fear.

December Goals

This is being posted on the last day of November.  And you are going to receive a LOT of gifts in the next 31 days.

Each of us should spend time in gratitude for the gifts that come in.  We should get a little emotionally closer to the generosity and sacrifice behind each gift. 

I guarantee you that visiting the mail room each day (or even just scrolling through the names of online donors) will make the inevitable complaint or pushback easier to handle.  Because somebody is going to say they don’t like one of your urgent year-end messages.  Or a Board member is going to complain about how much fundraising you send out at year-end. 

But if you and your organization emotionally feel all the gifts that have come in, those drops of negative feedback will dissolve in the ocean of generosity.

Emotionally acknowledging each gift will also bring you great joy at what you’re a part of.

Thanks for Being a Fundraiser


Today we’d like to thank you for being a Fundraiser.

You help your beneficiaries or cause with the funds you raise.

You help your organization fund needed programs and incredible impact. 

You help donors see what’s happening in the world, and you give them a way to get involved. 

That’s a lot for one job!

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S. like we are, I hope you get a moment to breathe deep, relax your shoulders, and appreciate all the good you’ve done this year.

The work you do matters, and it makes a difference.

Thanks for being a Fundraiser!

10 Fundraising Tactics You Should Use This Fall

Want to amp up your fall fundraising? We recommend these ten tactics to all our clients because they’ve been proven to work again and again and again:

  1. Report to your donors this fall — show them what their previous gift accomplished! Your donors are less likely to give you to at year-end if they haven’t heard lately what their gifts accomplish. We often produce an October Newsletter for our clients and work hard to highlight amazing stories made possible by the donor’s gift.
  2. Reporting is especially important for Major Donors. Make absolutely certain each major donor reads or hears a story of impact each fall.
  3. Focus on your donors more than on your organization. In all your communications, emphasize the donor’s role (“You helped make this happen!”) more than your organization’s role (“We helped 347 people this year…”)
  4. Make your communications to Major Donors stand out. When sending them an appeal letter, use a nicer envelope and hand write the address. When sending them a newsletter, put it in a 9×12 envelope and don’t fold the newsletter. Trust us; it’s worth spending the extra time and money to ensure your major donors pay attention to your communications!
  5. Communicate more than you think. If you only mail your donors a couple times, mail them at least one more time. For smaller organizations who mostly use email for fundraising, please mail your donors at least twice. We recommend most organizations mail their donors at least 4 times from September through December.
  6. During December, review your list of major donors. For all majors who have not yet given a gift this year, ask them!
  7. Have a campaign for Giving Tuesday, not just one email. Email your list on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Pro Tip: having a match for giving Tuesday really increases results. So many nonprofits are asking for gifts that day — having gift-doubling matching funds really helps your organization stand out.
  8. After giving Tuesday, change the first/main image on your website to a simple call-to-action to give a gift before the end of the year. Keep that as the main message on your homepage until January 1.
  9. During year-end, mail another appeal letter. Most organizations only mail one letter, but they should mail two. Mail the first letter the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and mail the second letter around December 11th. The second letter will raise about 1/3 the amount your first letter raises, and it won’t reduce the effectiveness of your first letter.
  10. Send 3 emails the last 4 days of the year. Everyone’s inbox is crowded – make sure they see an email from you when they are so likely to give a gift!

Ready for Download: Free eBook on Donor Complaints

Are complaints – or the fear of complaints – stopping your organization from connecting with more donors and raising more money?

Read the free eBook that will help your organization make “the leap” to the next level of fundraising by:

  • Showing the different types of complaints (and what they mean)
  • Giving you a script for how to respond to a Complainer
  • Giving you a simple system for handling all complaints (even internal complaints)

It’s called, “The Sanity-Saving Magic of Understanding Donor Complaints” and you can get it free right here.

Don’t let the fear of complaints hold you back! This eBook demystifies complaints, shows how complaints can hold an organization’s fundraising hostage, and gives your organization the tools to develop a healthy understanding and relationship with complaints.

Just released today – download it now!

It’s Thankuary Time!


A little over five years ago we invented “Thankuary” – taking the month of January and intentionally Thanking your donors with focus and emotion.

Your donors deserve it, and it will help you raise more money in 2023.

This post links to several free resources you can use to Thank your donors.

Start your year off by making sure your donors feel your appreciation. It’ll set you off on the right foot for the rest of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thank you for the work you do!

On behalf of your beneficiaries or cause, you make the generous act of asking donors to help. That’s a gift to who or whatever you serve, to your organization, and to your donors.

Fundraising is often hard, draining work. You have to see and hear so many stories that are tough. Then you have to share them. You have to be other-focused. All of which is wearing.

But there are so many parts of fundraising to be thankful for! For the funds you help raise that make your organization’s work possible. For increasing people’s awareness of what you’re working on and giving those people a chance to do something about it. For the incredible changes made possible by your organization.

You make the world a better place! As Dr. Martin Luther King says, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Thank you for “bending the arc” towards justice – and we at Better Fundraising love getting to be a small part of the great work you do.

Thank you for being a Fundraiser, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

~ Jim & Steven

How To Get the Most Out of Your Donor Thank You Calls

Thank you calls.

I think we all know that calling your donors to thank them is important, but in the back of our minds it goes something like this…

“I don’t have time,” and “how much does it really matter,” and “they never pick up,” and “wait, what if they do pick up?!”

If you are an annual gift officer looking for leads, or a major gifts officer building relationships, or even program staff hoping to spread the word about an event, here are some helpful steps you can take to make sure your donor thank you calls are worth your time:

  1. Do your research ahead of time — Spend 2 minutes in their donor record prior to the call. What you find could be crucial to your conversation.
    • When did they start giving? Previous board member? Where do they live? Which funds or campaign do they typically give to? Who do they have relationships with? Do they attend your events?
  2. Ask Discovery questions — Don’t waste your time as a fundraiser; if the donor answers the phone, use the opportunity to thank the donor and gather some discovery information. Here are my Top 5 Favorites:

    a. What inspired your gift?

    b. Do you have any personal connections to <insert your organization>’s employees, volunteers, or events?

    c. Can you tell me about your charitable giving? Are we in your top 3 charities?

    d. Is our organization in your will or estate plan?

    e. What’s the best way to contact you? Phone, email, mail?

  3. Send an email or thank you card — No one picked up the phone? Didn’t have time to call everyone? Send a personal thank you email with a discovery question.
    • You might be surprised who responds to your email AND shares discovery information with you. Even if you write a handwritten note to put in the mail, add your business card. You NEVER know when they might call you back.
  4. Take notes — Was their gift in memory of someone? Did they mention vacationing on their family yacht? Are their kids in high school? College? Are they retired?

If you don’t take a few minutes to call a donor to thank them, you’ll never know what you might be missing. You could be surprised at what you learn – once I had a donor notify me of a $100,000 estate gift during a thank you call!

Each donor will be grateful that you thanked them, and sometimes they might share a bit more than you expected. You will have deepened the relationship and increased your chance of another gift in the future!