7 Tips to Connect With Donors at Thanksgiving
[Editor's Note: Yes, we know that the Halloween decorations are just now starting to go up on houses all around the country, but stores everywhere are already selling Christmas decor. As a country, we have no problem thinking ahead to the next big holiday, even if that holiday is a month or more away. Trapped between the spooky fun of Halloween and the spiritual but often over-the-top commercialism of Christmas lies Thanksgiving, which is often overlooked in the retail arena but shouldn't be when it comes to fundraising, engagement and giving thanks to those who support your work. —M.B.G.]
Thanksgiving is a perfect time to connect more deeply with donors. And to do that, you have to plan ahead. So even though we're still more than a month out, you need to be thinking about your Thanksgiving strategy.
We have the pilgrims to thank for roots of our Thanksgiving holiday and America's philanthropic spirit.
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians joined in an autumn harvest feast that is said to be among the first Thanksgiving celebrations. (Our November holiday was designated by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.)
"A model of Christian charity" was the sermon John Winthrop preached to puritans bound for New England in 1630, emphasizing the wealthy's social obligation to care for those less fortunate. Then, in 1638, John Harvard bequeathed his library and half his estate to a newly founded school that would bear his name, and in 1643, Harvard University conducted what is believed to be the nation's first fundraising campaign.
It is appropriate, then, to use this special season to deepen your connection with donors by showing your appreciation for them. With just over a month before Thanksgiving, now is the time to make your plans. Here are seven tips for showing gratitude to donors at Thanksgiving.
- Send a Thanksgiving card to donors and volunteers. Make it personal with a handwritten signature and note wherever feasible.
- Assign volunteers and staff donors to call with a brief "thank you" message during the week of Thanksgiving, when business slows for most folks.
- Send a Thanksgiving-focused e-mail blast.
- Utilize your social-media sites, as well as those of your volunteer and staff team, to amplify your message of thanksgiving and have conversations with donors.
- Include appropriate Thanksgiving messages on your website homepage.
- Think of donors who might be homebound or not able to participate in holiday activities, and strategize how you might reach out to them.
- Consider sending an appropriate gift (hand-delivered if possible) that relates to your mission. For example, a handmade gift by those you serve (i.e., students, residents, campers or patients), homemade bread or other goodies from your top staff or leading volunteers, or a small basket of healthy snacks.
It's a natural fit to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday by saying thanks to those who have been generous to support your organization. Taking time to give thanks to them can be a simple way to grow relationships that last well past the holiday season. It will be meaningful to them and fun for you!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.