Say what? A million little (free) ways to say thank you.

Is your fundraising like a revolving door? You get some great one-time donations, but those donors never give again and you keep rotating through your donors.

Or maybe you had a successful fundraising appeal but when you go to ask those donors to give again, it’s radio silence.

What most people fail to understand (or make time for) is that fundraising is much more about what happens before and after an ask than the ask itself. A little bit of work following a gift can have significant impact on future gifts.

The best part about this is that it also feels good. So many people think fundraising is “icky” or pushy, because they miss this part – the fun, feel good part.

Here is a roundup of some of my favorite ways to say thank you to donors. A special thanks to those who contributed their ideas (credited below).

Thank you calls

You’ve heard me say this before – but I’ll say it again (and again, and again). Thank you calls go a LONG way in making your donors feel appreciated. When a donation is made, pick up the phone and say a quick “thanks”.

I’m hearing from a lot of you that you don’t have phone numbers for your donors. Don’t worry, there are lots more ideas to follow.

A hand-written card

Another simple and straightforward act, but donors love it. Wouldn’t you? Everyone is nostalgic for “simple” analogue acts and a card feels personal and special. Take a few extra minutes to make it especially personal!

An anniversary card

Laura Graham, Coordinator, Donor Relations & Stewardship, Pathways to Education has an anniversary card program. The donor receives a card on the first anniversary of their first gift and then again at their 5, 10 and 15-year mark. BONUS – try send a card on the 6 month anniversary too!

An impact “report”

Now, don’t get turned off by the word “report” – this does not have to be fancy. Simply send the donor (or donors) an update on what their donation has allowed your organization to do. Keep it simple and use a story and no more than 3-4 “stats”

A testimonial

“A note or testimonial from someone who was personally impacted by their gift is the most thoughtful thing you can do”. It’s simple and goes straight to addressing donor motivations, making it meaningful to them.

- April Hazan, Director of Development, Hot Docs

Hand-made anything from your clients

When I worked at a women’s shelter, we had the kids living in the shelter do some art that we sent to donors as a thank you. You can do any kind of art or trinkets that are hand-made by your clients to show your donors their support in action.

Homemade baked goods

This is the BEST. Who doesn’t love some nice homemade cookies? I’ve brought these to donor meetings as a little leave behind. When I was Director of Development at a business school, we used to host an annual drop-in with baked goodies for all the staff who participated in the staff giving campaign. I can't stress this one enough - it's such a caring and thoughtful thank you.

A virtual check-in

“We do a special conference call for our top council of donors. We host one every two months or so on a different topic around the work our organization does, and have a Program staff or an alumni lead the call and talk about the topic, and then there is an time for questions at the end. it only runs about 20 minutes and everyone simply calls into a conference number. Organization is easy, as we allow our program staff to lead the discussion based on their expertise. Our listener-ship has been growing a little bit each time, and it's been a good way to engage our highest donors which allows them to feel like they are accessing exclusive information.”

- Laura Graham, Coordinator, Donor Relations & Stewardship, Pathways to Education


I think videos are underused and are relative easy to make! Showcasing the individuals that are directly benefiting from philanthropy is an amazing way to steward, especially if you customize it for each donor (ie. mentioning the donor's name when thanking them). A great (but expensive) example is what humber did. See it here!

- Adlai Salcedo, Prospect Management Associate at McGill University and Strategy Manager at Founders Canada

A birthday card

April Hazan, Director of Development at Hot Docs loves to send birthday cards to her donors. It’s simple yet shows you are thinking of your donors at the times that are most important to them.

As you can see, there is no end to great ideas that feel good and make your donors feel good. The key to success here is consistency. Pick one or two that you can do time after time or change it up year after year, but make sure you stick with it.