Your Thanksgiving Thank-A-Thon

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” ~Meister Eckhart, (1260 – 1328)

Your Thanksgiving Thank-A-Thon is critical to your year-end fundraising drive; but it’s also the penultimate moment for you to express unabashed gratitude to your donors and funders.

My blog posts this month have been all about boosting your year-end giving.

I’ve already described what’s ahead for year-end giving in 2022; you can read about that here.

Last week, I wrote about empowering your board members to take leadership roles in year-end fundraising and recommended that you create a board challenge; you can read about that here.

During the next few weeks, I’ll examine other aspects of year-end giving, including year-end appeal letters and the crucial last four days of the year. Stay tuned.

Your Thanksgiving Thank-A-Thon is the official kickoff of your entire year-end drive, and preparations must begin now.

You can either conduct your Thank-A-Thon the old-fashioned way, by making phone calls, or you can use 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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Phoning or texting?

Texting: 81% of Americans text regularly according to a collective group of prominent researchers. More than 6 billion texts are sent every day. Over 180 billion texts are sent every month. 27 trillion texts are sent every year.

A text message is the quickest way to connect with your supporters. Texts have a 99% open rate. 95% of texts will be read within three minutes of being sent. Average response time for a text is 90 seconds. Texts have a 45% average response rate.

I recommend that you 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 hearts. Without you, we simply could not do our work! Thank you.”

Anne Jones, Exec. Dir. [insert your nonprofit’s website]

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

While I am not endorsing any particular text vendor, I’m fond of I have no stake in the company and no business relationship with them; I’m just one of their happy customers.

Phoning: Thank-A-Thon phone volunteers typically find it easy 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 segmented donor lists and a script to follow.

A typical call to “Joe or Jane Donor” might go like this:

Hello Jane, I’m a board member [or volunteer or staff member] with [insert the name of your nonprofit], and I’m just calling to say, ‘Thank you’ for your involvement, for caring, for your membership, and for your donations.”

The caller can then ask the donor about what spurred their affiliation with the nonprofit, the tenure of their involvement, etc.

If you happen to know something about the person — perhaps they introduced your organization to the local rotary club, or they donated food for the pantry — then you would say, “I’m aware that you recently helped us, and we really appreciate it.”

If you don’t reach the person, but get their voicemail instead, leave the same thank-you message and also let them know who they can call if they have questions or just want to talk. Both the live conversation and the voice message are effective. If you do reach the person directly, they will be genuinely pleased and surprised to hear from you.

Countless are the times I’ve heard a donor say on the phone, “Oh, my, you’re the only organization that’s ever called me to say thank you. What a nice thing to do!”

Calling is an authentic act of gratitude, not a contrivance. You are simply calling to say, “Thank you,” and to listen if they would like to engage you in conversation.

Encourage your volunteer participants to relax and have fun. These calls are about human connection.

Prepare a FAQ sheet for the volunteer to use 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 answers at hand. You should always be ready to display your preparation and professionalism, and a thank-you call is no exception.


When is it best to text or call?

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

As for your phone Thank-A-Thon, the optimal time is a few days before Thanksgiving.

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, and you can give each caller 25-40 donors to contact. Before they begin making calls, have everyone spend 10 minutes practicing and “role-playing” (i.e., taking turns acting as caller and recipient).

I ask the volunteers to bring their cellphones and use them for the calling, and I order a few pizzas. While I realize it’s only pizza, it’s always a morale booster and adds to the collegial feelings.

Whether texting or phoning, let me repeat: You should consider the Thanksgiving Thank-A-Thon as the official kickoff of your entire year-end drive, and preparations should begin right now.

What’s your experience of expressing thanks to your donors? What has worked? Please share below. Also, please forward this post to a colleague who may appreciate it.

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