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.

The Difference Between “Understanding” and “Feeling”


A major donor can understand that their gift was appreciated.  That’s nice.  And pretty easy to make that happen.

Yet it’s also possible for a major donor to really feel that their gift was appreciated.

There’s a big difference. 

The blog post How to Thank a Major Donor So She’ll WANT to Give Again gives you a simple road map to making your major donors feel your organization’s appreciation.

I share that post today because the signs are pointing to donations from individual donors being down this year. 

If that holds true for the rest of the year, it’s more important than ever for your organization to make sure your major donors feel your gratitude.

Here’s what often happens in down years.  Major donors deploy a two-part strategy:

  • They reduce the number of organizations they support, and
  • They reduce the amount they give to each organization. 

But major donors usually have a couple of organizations – close to their hearts, where they feel their giving really matters – that they do not cut or reduce.

That’s the group you want to be in. 

But you must earn your way into that group.

So go read the post, then go make sure your majors feel your gratitude!

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!

It’s a Gift to Be a Fundraiser

It’s a Gift to Be a Fundraiser

Today’s the last day of sharing the stories behind my fundraising posts that got the most reactions on social media.

Here’s #7, #6, #5, #4, #3 and #2.

And #1 is…

The ability to do fundraising as a career is a gift.

I was gratified to see that this was the most liked tweet in my “51 fundraising lessons on my 51st birthday” thread.

Because if you’re like me, sometimes you find fundraising infuriating. It’s emotionally hard work, there are more tactics to know than ever before, sometimes organizational stakeholders have no idea what they are talking about but are still given equal voice, etc.

There’s a lot of complaining in the world of fundraising. Some of it certainly from me.

And yet! At some level I think most of us know how rewarding our work is.

Fundraisers get to help organizations do the work they were founded to do. Fundraisers get to help donors do good and powerful things.

All of us reading this blog could be in the “sales” business – chasing attention and profit. We could be in the “news” business – chasing attention and profit.

Instead, we’re in the Fundraising business. We’re certainly still chasing attention, but there’s a purpose behind our work that’s deeper and more valuable than pure profit.

This holiday season, I hope you’re thankful for your job in fundraising. I hope you’re thankful for the role you play in the life of your organization, your beneficiaries, and your donors.

In this season of giving, we remember that it’s a gift to do fundraising – we thank you for being a Fundraiser!

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!

Six Tips for the First Sentence of Your Next Thank You/Receipt Letter

Heat Map

How you write the first sentence of your receipt letter (or autoreply email) makes a great deal of difference for whether your donor keeps reading… or not.

Let me give you five tips we live by at Better Fundraising.

Be Direct

The more direct and “to the point” you can be, the better. Here are two first sentences that I use all the time:

“Thank you for your generous gift of [GiftAmt]!”

“You are so generous, thank you!”

Using your first sentence to “send the main message” is an effective tactic in your donor communications. Your donor doesn’t have to read any further and she’s already received the message you’re trying to send.

Short and sweet

Think of the first sentence as the “on-ramp” to the rest of your note or letter. If the on-ramp is easy, your donor is likely to keep reading.

If the on-ramp sentence is long, with lots of clauses or jargon, your donor is less likely to keep reading.

Share the Outcome

Another powerful idea is to share the outcome of the donor’s gift. This isn’t always possible, but here are some examples:

“Thank you for your gift to put on this fall’s exhibit.”

“Thank you for your poverty-fighting gift!”

“Thank you for your generosity, your gift will fund vital research!”

It’s great if you can thank your donor and give her a sense of what her gift will accomplish – in one short sentence.

Start with the Beneficiaries

It’s always a good idea to mention the people or thing your organization serves! This results in first sentences like this:

“Thank you for your gift to protect endangered wetlands!”

“Thank you for your gift to help the children!”

“Thank you for preserving heirloom quilts for quilt-lovers to see!”

Use ‘You’

The word “you” is magical at getting your reader’s attention. It’s also a good way to signal to the donor that this piece of communication is about them – that they should be interested in this and want to read it.

“Your generosity amazes me!”

Use the word “you” early and often.

It’s Not About Your Organization

One of the secondary benefits of using the word “you” is that you’re not writing your organization’s name, or the words “we” or “us.”

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with those words or your organization’s name. Just remember that the best Thank You’s tend to be about the donor and their gift – and not about the organization.

Final Thought

You want to write something that your donor is interested in reading, and makes her want to keep reading.

If it helps, here’s an example of what not to do. It’s my all-time favorite bad opening line of a thank you / receipt letter:

“Recently, we returned from an all-staff retreat.”

Ask yourself, why would a donor want to keep reading?

If you want your donors to keep reading, follow the guidelines above. Your Thank You’s and Receipt Letters will improve in no time!

Act Yourself into Gratitude

Act Yourself into Gratitude.

Two simple quotes for you today about gratitude.

First, from Millard Fuller, the Founder of Habitat for Humanity:

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.”

Second, from yours truly, who stumbled onto the same idea on Twitter a few months ago:

“Most people think that it takes a happy organization to show real gratitude to their donors. In my experience it’s the opposite: the organizations who choose to show real gratitude to their donors become happier.”

Look, there are lots of ways a fundraiser can show real gratitude to their donors. Off the top of my head, look up @LeahEustace on thank you calls increasing donor retention, or @johnepp and @agentjenlove on their incredible “Gratitude Reports” (instead of “annual reports”), and of course @thattomahern on donor-focused newsletters that give credit to donors.

But I’m not talking about that now.

I’m talking about what’s holding your organization back from doing those things.

I have two words for you…

Just Start!

You won’t be great at it at first. But your donors will feel it.

You’ll stumble. But your future fundraising results will improve.

You’ll even shoot yourself in the foot by saying things like “Thank you for supporting us as we do incredible things…“

You can make all kinds of errors. You can be the most self-centered Thanker of all time – and still you’ll raise more money! Why? Because…

Donors Love to Feel Needed and Important

Showing real, emotional gratitude is one of the primary ways you can make a donor feel needed and important.

Get good at that, and you’re on your way to raising a lot of money.

So start! Start acting grateful to your donors, and sharing your organization’s gratitude, and you will become a more grateful organization.

Are your receipts and thank you letters dripping with gratitude, or filled with marketing copy?

Is your newsletter about what the donor did, or about what your organization has been busy doing?

Just start! And I suggest that this January, immediately after a lot of your donors have just given, is a great time to start!

We’re Having a Sale

Would you breathe a little easier as you start 2019, knowing that your appeals, e-appeals, and newsletters are going to work better than they ever have before?

How about also knowing that you won’t have to do them yourself? And that you’ll have time to work on other important things – and you’ll save thousands of dollars?

A team of experts from Better Fundraising can create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters for you. You’ll free up a time to focus on important things that aren’t getting done now, and your fundraising will raise more money. It’s like an “EASY” button for your fundraising communications, and your first month is free – an average savings of $3,500. Wonder if it’s a fit for your organization? Fill out this super-short form and we’ll get in touch!