Your Thanksgiving Thank-A-Thon

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

The optimal time to do your Thank-A-Thon is a few days before – you guessed it –Thanksgiving. You should consider “Thanks Bonanza” to be the official kickoff of your entire year-end drive, and your preparation should begin now.

You can either do it the old fashion way, by making phone calls, or by using a texting message service. I prefer the latter, but there’s merit to the former.

Both methods are intended for donors who have at least one gift on record.

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TWO METHODS: Phoning or Texting

  1. Texting: The average American sends about 41.5 text messages a day. A text message is the quickest way to connect with your supporters, even more directly and quickly than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. And, according to research done by Mobile Commons, texts are also most likely to gain an immediate response when compared to other apps, emails, and voicemail.The plan would be for you to text your supporters a short, gracious message of appreciation, something like this: “We’re thinking of you this Thanksgiving and giving thanks for your support. You and your family and friends are in our heart. Without you, we could not do our work! Thank you.” Anne Jones, Exec. Dir.

    Texting helps extend your reach, and gets your message heard in a noisy direct marketing environment. It’s also very easy to use and inexpensive to operate.

    Given that texting is a relatively new form of marketing, it’s the perfect time for your organization to get on board and stay ahead of the game. With a 99% open rate, text message marketing is significantly more effective than traditional methods, such as email, direct mail, and others. With text messaging, you can immediately reach your audience wherever they are, and there’s a 90% chance that they’ll read your message within just three minutes of receipt. With this kind of impact, you’ll be able to automate your outreach and watch your nonprofit grow, as you focus on mission-critical activities. While I am not endorsing any particular provider, I am fond of I have no stake in the company and no business relationship with them; I am just one of their happy customers.

  2. Phone Banking: Thank-A-Thon participants typically love to make calls because there’s no “ask” involved; it’s just a call with an emotionally pleasing purpose. Usually, a group of board members, staff members, and volunteers will come together, armed with lists (which have been prepared in advance) of whom to call and what to say. A typical call to Joe or Jane Donor might go: “Hello Jane, I’m a board member, volunteer, or staff member with Compassionate Food Pantry and I’m just calling to say, ‘thank you’ for your involvement, for your membership, and for your donations.” If you happen to know something about the person — perhaps they just introduced your organization to the local rotary club or they just got extra food for the pantry — then you would say, “I’m aware that you recently did this and we really appreciate it and want you to know the board realizes it, the staff realizes it, and the volunteers realize it as well.”That’s it. If you don’t get the person but get their voicemail instead, do leave the same thank-you message and possibly let them know that if they need anything more from the organization they can call your main number and/or visit your website. Both the live conversation and the message are very effective, though if you get the person on the phone you’ll also be able to experience the pure sense of gratitude and appreciation your donors so often feel from the call.

    Countless are the times I have heard a donor say, “Oh my, you’re the only organization that’s ever called me to say thank you. What a nice thing to do!” It’s a genuine act of esteem and you should see it that way too. Don’t think of it as a contrivance because it’s not. It’s just you calling to say, “thank you.”

    Before the first call, I recommend you tell all your participants to relax and have fun, and for them to do so more easily you should prepare a FAQ sheet for them to consult if the need arises. This way, if they’re asked, “How’s that campaign going?” or “Are there any volunteer opportunities?” or “What’s the annual budget this year?” they’ll have good answers at the ready. There is never a bad time to show off your preparation and professionalism, and a thank-you call is no exception. If you have an exciting (free) event on the horizon, it’s okay to mention that as well.

When Should We Hold It?

For the texting service, I recommend that the message goes out the day before thanksgiving. I prefer texting over voicemail because you can provide a link to your website where the donor can learn more about you.

As for a day and time for your phone Thank-A-Thon, I recommend asking staff and volunteer leadership to participate either on a weekend afternoon or a weekday early evening. Three hours is usually the right amount of time for the event, and you can give each caller 15-20 donors to call. Before they begin, have everyone spend 10 minutes practicing calls and “role-playing” (i.e., taking turns pretending to be the donor).

I ask people to bring their cellphones and I order a few pizzas. While I realize it’s only pizza, I’m always pleased to see what a real morale booster it becomes among the callers, and how it adds to the collegial feelings.


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