Thanks, Thanks, and More Thanks!

By E. Dale Berkey, Ph.D. 

President, BBS & Associates 


“Thank you.” Two simple words that mean so much. 

 At this time of year, gratitude is front and center, the focus of an entire holiday — complete with a three-day workweek — and a delicious feast with family and friends.  

 But those of us who serve non-profit organizations know gratitude is key year-round! We have relied on givers all along — people who serve, people who sacrifice — and thankfulness is essential fuel for those who give. 

 None of the ministries we serve could make the impact they make, or even function, without donors. 

 When your donors give, they need to be thanked promptly, accurately, warmly, and, when possible, personally. 

 Unfortunately, ministries do not always live by this precept.  

But a simple Thank you can go a long way toward turning a new donor into a lifetime donor. 

Research has shown that first-time donors who receive a personal “Thank youwithin 48 hours are four times more likely to give again. Furthermore, a “Thank you” phone call will boost new donor retention by 30%. 

 This can be the make-or-break strategy for ministries in the current economy. According to Blackbaud’s most recent Charitable Giving Report, the retention rate for first-year donors was 29% for offline, 23% online. 

 Bottom line: Ministries cannot afford NOT to show gratitude. They need to go above and beyond in thanking people and letting that know that you notice and care. 

 Showing thanks also makes significant additional impacts on your donors. When you say “Thank you” … 

  • You signal the fact that you received her gift. 
  • You reassure the donor that her gift will be used in the way it was intended to. 
  • You reinforce the notion that she made a good choice. 
  • You satisfy a deep-down desire for gratitude that the donor may not even recognize in herself. 

So it’s crucial to find ways to thank your donors, and thank them often. 

But how? 

Here are five ways we’ve learned to thank donors effectively: 

  1. If a gift was given in the mail, send out a “Thank you” letter within 48 hours. If the gift was given online, the donor should receive a “Thank you” email almost immediately. 
  2. Send the donor a handwritten note. 
  3. Call or text the donor to express your appreciation for her gift. 
  4. Send the donor a short video “Thank you” message. 
  5. Send the donor a small ministry-oriented or encouraging gift (photo, book, etc.). 

If you’ve come up with other ways to thank donors, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to send me an email to get the conversation started.