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Updated: Feb 1

When the advice is good, it often bears repeating exhaustively.


I’ve often mentioned that a strong donor relations program is a hill I am more than willing to die on. I saw what implementing a robust stewardship plan did for my organization when I was an executive director (increased fundraising by 300% in 3 years!), so I know first-hand its power.

Yet I still encounter, more than you or I would imagine, nonprofit organizations who do not thank their donors AT ALL, or very rarely, and it’s mind-boggling to me. In fact, statistics show more than 60 percent of all nonprofits don't thank donors properly – whether slow, impersonal, or not at all.

The heartbeat of all nonprofits, the thing that sustains them, is the generosity and support of their donors. To be more blunt, without donors, your organization doesn’t exist. Donors are the lifeline of your mission, so a donor relations plan is not just a “nice to have” option but an absolute necessity for any nonprofit striving to make a meaningful impact.

A strong stewardship plan is even more critical when you examine recent donor data. According to Giving USA 2023: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2022, overall giving decreased in 2022 by 3.4% following two years of record-breaking generosity. Other reports have shown a similar trend of a decline in giving, meaning holding onto the donors you have should be your no. 1 priority.

And the best way to hold onto them is to thank them properly and report back on how they are making a difference.

Establishing a strong donor relations plan also allows you to build a solid foundation of credibility for your nonprofit. Donors want to know their contributions are being utilized effectively and making a genuine difference. Open and transparent communication with your supporters fosters a sense of trust, which can lead to donors supporting your organization long-term.

Just as every contribution matters, regardless of its size, every donor matters, and the WAY you thank donors is equally important. The warmth and thoughtfulness behind a gesture can leave a lasting impact on donors, and meaning gestures don’t have to cost anything more than time! Stuck for ideas? Here are a few ways to express gratitude to those who support your cause:

  • Virtual Thank-You Cards: Virtual cards are as meaningful as printed ones in the digital age. Send a thank-you e-card via email to express your gratitude.

  • Behind-the-Scenes Access: Offer donors an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes of your organization's work via videos sent via email or even host a virtual tour.

  • Recognize Milestones: Celebrate your donors' birthdays, anniversaries, or special occasions. A simple acknowledgment can make them feel valued and connected.

  • Personal Phone Calls: A brief phone call from a team member expressing gratitude can leave a memorable impression.

  • Creative Thank-You Art: Involve your team, board, volunteers, and those you serve, especially kids, to create artwork or thank-you cards. Share these creations with your donors.

Remember, the thoughtful intention behind these gestures truly matters, not the cost. By taking the time to acknowledge and appreciate your donors, you create a strong bond that can lead to long-lasting relationships and continued support for your nonprofit's mission.

Need more ideas to thank donors? Download my freebie “Warm Touches to Ignite Your Donors Before Year-End” HERE, develop a plan, and start lighting your followers’ fires!

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