Giving Thanks: 3 Essential Ways to Thank Donors

How To | July 30, 2015

Imagine this scenario…

You have a friend you care about, and her birthday is coming up. So you go online, choose a gift and send it to her along with a birthday note.

Her birthday comes and goes, and you hear nothing back. You wonder if she received your gift. You wonder if she liked it. You wonder why you didn’t hear from her. And then you stop wondering and get on with your life. But when the following year rolls around without so much as a thank you or acknowledgement from your friend, you decide you won’t be sending her another gift.

Now imagine a similar scenario when your donors send a gift to your charity. And imagine how they must feel when they don’t hear anything back. Or, when the response they do receive is an appeal for another donation. It’s the same disheartening feeling, and it’s likely costing you recurring donations.

What Donors Want

In Penelope Burke’s Donor Centered Fundraising, 93% of donors said three things would determine whether they would give again:

  1. Prompt and personalized gift acknowledgement
  2. Confirmation that funds will be used as originally indicated in the solicitation
  3. Measurable results on their last gift before they are asked for another one.

Furthermore, the 2014 Burk Donor Survey revealed that 67% of donors would definitely or probably give again if a charity thanked them promptly and reported their progress in measurable terms.

Clearly, taking the time to thank your donors — for every donation they make — can increase your bottom line. And yet, it’s a neglected practice.

A 2014 Donor Communications Experiment by Bloomerang showed that while 96% of participating non-profits sent a donation receipt by email, only 34% sent an acknowledgement by mail and 0 made thank you phone calls, despite the fact that 38% requested a phone number on their donation form. Why request a phone number if you’re not going to use it?

3 Thanking Essentials

Thanking donors, regardless of the size of their gift, is not optional. According to fundraising professional Claire Axelrad, there are three things charities must do upon receiving a donation.

  • Send a thank you within 48 hours: Whether or not your donor gives online or offline, send them a thank you note immediately.
  • Personalize your mail: Using their first name is not enough to personalize a thank you. Send a note that goes beyond a templated response and includes personal remarks. Thank them for giving and avoid asking for more (that comes later). If it’s a first-time donor, consider including a welcome pack with stories and news. Here are some more excellent tips on How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter.
  • Make a phone call: In this age of texts and emails, imagine the delight your donors will feel at getting a phone call with nothing more than a heartfelt thank you.

Giving donors the appreciation, recognition and genuine communication they crave may take a little extra effort. But the payoff can be great when it comes to donor retention.

Most charities lose 50% of their donors between the first and second donation and up to 30% per year thereafter, according to Adrian Sergeant, a professor of fundraising at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Boosting your retention rate by just 10% can increase the lifetime value of your donor base by up to 200%.

Did you know Chimp lets you to thank your donors immediately and automatically? We can also help with your donor communications and engagement strategy. Give us a call at 1-877-531-0580 or email

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