Fundraising Week 2012: How to Say Thank You

Typewritten thank you

It's Fundraising Week here at NCFY! We're re-posting some of our favorite articles from the Right on the Money series, which focuses on how youth-serving organizations can sustain their programs financially. In this article first published in December 2010, we get advice from several fundraisers on how to say "thank you" to donors and volunteers.

Common wisdom says to thank your donors at least seven times during the course of the year. Here are five ideas for thanking those who give to your cause – whether individual donors, foundation or government officers or volunteers – one last time before we say goodbye to another year.

  1. Send an end-of-year wrap-up letter or e-mail message, says fundraising consultant Sandy Rees. “Nothing fancy,” she says. “Just let the donor know what their gift accomplished this year.” Keep it short, with a few statistics, such as the number of young people served by your programs, and a personal story about a young person (keeping confidentiality in mind).

    “When you can include a couple of facts and a good story, it appeals to both sides of the brain,” Rees says.

  2. Mail a holiday card – if you can afford it and if you can get it to the post office by mid-December. “It’s a good idea to send something in the mail that doesn’t have an ‘ask’ in it,” Rees says. “You’re not asking for money, you’re just thanking them.”

    But if you can’t get your cards out early in the season, consider waiting till mailboxes get less crowded, say at the new year or in February, for Valentine’s Day, says Karin Mills, formerly vice president of fund development and marketing for the Indiana Youth Institute, in Indianapolis. That way, your card will stand out, rather than blending in with all the other holiday notes.

  3. If your organization or a staff member owns a digital video recorder, videotape a quick thank you from staff or a testimonial from a family you’ve helped. Then post it on your website and share it via e-mail, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and whatever other social media your organization uses.
  4. Give a special gift to your top 10 or 20 donors or volunteers. “You can’t do something for everyone, but you can try to do something for those truly involved,” Mills says. An item as simple as framed artwork by youth in your program, a basket of brownies or a peach with a note (“You’re a peach”) lets donors and volunteers know you appreciate their contributions, she says.
  5. News is slow between Christmas and new years, so pitch a feel-good story to your local news media. Spotlight the difference your volunteers are making, and include a message of thanks. “I’ve always been able to place a story that week,” Rees says.
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