Kick Off Your Year-End Fundraising Drive With a Thank You

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Your year-end drive likely features written and email appeals delivered between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. That’s good … but …

Before you make your appeals, you have an important opportunity to say “thank you” — and to do so in a way that is fresh and vibrant.

Thanksgiving offers you a perfect hook for kicking off your year-end drive through a Thank-A-Thon — a “Thanks Bonanza” that you can start preparing for now.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of thanking donors and doing so in ways that do not come attached to a fundraising appeal.

By treating your donors well before Thanksgiving, you are more likely to enjoy their support in December, assuming you have a robust year-end giving appeal process in place.

Here are four ways you can show donors your gratitude:

1. Send personal notes 

Catch your supporters off-guard with a positive Thanksgiving message full of gratitude. This can come in the form of a personal card. Even better, you can send a handwritten note to every major supporter, volunteer, and corporate partner.

2. Make phone calls

I agree with Terry Axelrod, founder of Benevon, who believes thank-you calls to donors carry special significance.

We’ve had great success conducting Thank-A-Thon phone bank events. These events bring together board members, staff members, and volunteers on a weeknight or weekend day before Thanksgiving to call donors and thank them for their support. You can easily invite donors to group Zoom calls too. Here are six tips on how to make virtual donor calls.

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.

3. Send text messages

A text message is a quick way to connect with your supporters, even more directly and quickly than messages sent through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. According to research done by Mobile Commons, texts are also most likely to gain an immediate response when compared with other apps, emails, and voicemail.

You can immediately reach your audience wherever they are. There’s a 90% chance that they’ll read your message within just three minutes of receipt. This suggestion is so important that if you had to pick one, this is the one to pick.

We send ours out for our clients the day before Thanksgiving, and the text reads simply: “Happy Thanksgiving from <insert your nonprofit’s name>. We are grateful beyond measure that you’re part of our community.” It’s usually signed by the CEO.

4. Send donor gifts

This is a tricky recommendation because it depends on what sort of gift and which donor segment you have in mind. It also depends on your previous conversations (or not) with the donors or what they may have said in their donor survey. A gift can work to your advantage, or it can work against you. I explain all about it here.

How has your nonprofit used Thanksgiving as an opportunity to connect with donors? Have you used any of the tactics outlined here — or have you had success with a different approach? Please share your experience in the comments below. We’d be forever GRATEFUL if you did. 😊


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