To the Point: The Fine (Yet Simple) Art of Thank You

Theres more than one way to acknowledge a donor. Here are a few fresh ideas.

It’s a familiar scene. I’m in line at the grocery store. A young girl and her mother are ahead of me. The girl is poking at the food items on the conveyor belt, running her hand up and down the gray metal. In an effort to distract her, the clerk compliments the young girl on her dress. Embarrassed and surprised by the clerk’s attention, the young girl slips behind her mother.

Almost as if by rote, the mother pipes up in a syrupy-sweet voice. She asks, “What do you say?” The girl, now hiding from the clerk’s view, peeks out from behind her mother’s leg and whispers, “Thank you.”

Thank you — two simple, familiar and important words that have been etched into us since birth. As fundraisers, we all know that saying them is a core part of any successful program. But not all thank-yous are created equal. Here are some suggestions for making yours ?stand out.

1. Send pictures to your major donors.?There’s nothing like seeing the fruits of your labor. As a donor, your “labor” is the work that an organization does on your behalf with a gift. Show your donors the new well you built, the children you serve and the animals you save. Pictures help create an emotional connection with your audience and bond your donors to your organization.

2. Send thank-you notes from the people you serve.?I was pleasantly surprised this summer to get a thank-you note from the Nonprofit Technology Network after making a donation to send a small nonprofit to the annual NTEN conference. The thing is, the thank-you note didn’t come from NTEN Executive Director Holly Ross; it came from the person who attended the conference thanks to me. Smart!

3. Send thank-you notes from your board members.?Don’t groan and roll your eyes. I know you need your board members to do lots of important stuff, and writing thank-you notes might seem a little trite. Call me tactical, but imagine your donor’s surprise and delight in reading a personal note from your board chair. It might end up as one of the most strategic things you do!

4. Send offline thank-you notes for online gifts.?My co-worker received a thank-you letter from the Human Rights Campaign recently, acknowledging a gift and action she took online. It was a nice, unexpected surprise.

5. Don’t send a thank-you note at all. Call instead. ?My friend received a thank-you phone call from her alma mater. The call came from a current student volunteer. What a great way to both show gratitude and demonstrate the value of her gift.

6. Send thank-you notes to your staff. ?While fundraising is about donors, it’s also about the program staff that does the great work on behalf of your organization. So send handwritten thank-you notes to the folks in the field, and let them know that their work is valued and, in fact, essential to your organization’s success.

We all know that saying thank you is key to fundraising success. It’s critical to acknowledge your donors’ investments in your organization. There are lots of ways to say thanks. Get creative in the way you show your gratitude. It’s the right thing to do, and it will pay off. FS

Jocelyn Harmon is director of business development at Triplex Interactive and keeper of the Marketing for Nonprofits blog. Reach her at

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  • http://Susan Susan

    Great article. As the administrator in a biomedical library (private, non-profit institution) this has given me several ideas about how to enhance communication with our supporters. Thank you.