This was a Quora question someone sent me, and I did have to stop and think about the best answer.  Donor acknowledgements and thank yous are a popular topic, what is best? What do people want and value, and what will inspire them to continue to give?

As both a fundraiser and a donor, I am on both sides of this question. As a donor, or potential donor, I have received blankets, note cards, calendars and more address labels than I will ever be able to use, some from groups I have supported, some from ones I haven?t ( yet).

As a fundraiser, I have sent CD?s, pins, booklets, wristbands and teddy bears. There are costs associated with thank you gifts: deciding what to give, how much to spend, and work of sending them.

  • Some donors don?t want anything; they prefer to have as little spent on fundraising costs as possible.
  • Some donors only seem to respond when there is an incentive associated with their gift.

How do you know what will work best? 

The Best One I Ever Received

Of all the acknowledgements and thanks I have received, one in particular stands out. I had attended an event, not a fundraiser, for a dog rescue organization.  The event was a graduation ceremony for a pilot program that was a very complex to plan and produce. It was a big risk for all the people involved, and it was a great success.

The next day I received a 3 sentence email from the founder of the organization, thanking me for taking the time to travel to the event and supporting their program with my attendance. No stuffed toy, no magnet or sticker, simply sincere and immediate recognition for my support.

The fact that she noticed me there,  cared that I showed up and took the time to let me know was fantastic to me, and meant more than any object I could receive.

The Point

The best way to thank your donors is to understand what will work for them.  The founder of the rescue understood that the investment of her time to me meant more than a trinket. Think about why your donors support you and what they may feel is important. Sometimes it can be good to ask them what they would feel is a strong way to thank new and ongoing donors. Pay attention to what they say.

You won?t please everyone, but you might be surprised at how little, but at the same time how big, a simple gesture can be. Thanking donors doesn’t need to be purchased things, but letting your donor know how much you genuinely recognize and value their support is crucial. While the words authentic and genuine have been terribly abused, they are the perfect words to apply when considering how to create a strong and effective  acknowledgement program. 

Think about any times you have been made to feel valued, considered and thanked. What was it about those times that resonated with you? Sure, it can be easier to stuff a bumper sticker in an envelope, but that unexpected short phone call or  the handwritten note on the tax letter might make more of an impact than a token.

As the season of giving thanks approaches, give thanks that are a true reflection of your appreciation, and remember than many times, less can be more. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

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