Noisy people are a distraction.

A Three-Part Series on Thanking, Reporting Back and Serving Your Major Donors that Will Break Through Their Noise and Bring Them Joy

#1 — Thanking Donors

Does it ever feel like you are constantly being bombarded with noise? Information, news, Twitter, Facebook, emails, video, TV… it’s just a lot. There is so much happening to you during a day that all the communication we send and receive feels… well, overwhelming.
Your major donors are experiencing the same thing. And I believe that over time it all becomes white noise and our donors tune out… or they become numb to it all.
No wonder your donors are not responding to your phone calls or emails. Can you blame them?
Richard and I believe that part of being great at major gift fundraising is the ability to “stand out” from the noise your donor is experiencing by creating “donor joy.” When there is “Donor Joy” (okay, we are going to coin that phrase) you have the ability to get the donor to turn her head, stop for a moment, pick up the phone, and say yes to your meeting – because you have done something to help the donor feel incredible about your organization.
You create donor joy by being authentic and making an impression in surprising ways. How do you break through the noise?
In this series, I’m going to give you some ideas under three different strategies: Thanking, Reporting Back and Serving Your Donors. Today we talk about Thanking.


These days, donors expect to be thanked properly and in a timely way. I’m going to assume you have that down. What they don’t expect is that added touch that makes the “thank you” meaningful… and fills them with joy. Here we go:

  1. Send a handwritten thank you letter written by a recipient of your organization’s work. I’m telling you, these are absolute winners. If you help children or students, then a letter from them would be powerful. Donors love it; I guarantee it. I’ve even seen a thank you letter written by a “real” giraffe from a non-profit that helps with African animals. Why do I know this? Because a major donor told me about it. It stood out.
  2. Write a thank you letter by hand. No, I’m not talking about a note. I’m talking about a real letter that you actually write out yourself. Who is doing this? No one I know, which is why you should do it. Believe me, no other non-profit or MGO is writing to donors thanking them with a full-length, handwritten letter. You will stand out.
  3. Get your ED to say “thank you.” Find a long-time donor that you absolutely adore. Now, go into your Executive Director’s office and say, “hey, I would love it if you would just look into my phone camera and tell [donor’s name] how grateful we are for her and what a difference she is making.” That’s it. Then hit send to the donor. This is so easy and so powerful and REAL, it will absolutely break through. Now, notice I didn’t say prepare a script or make sure the ED is wearing a suit or anything. Nope, it has to be genuine and real.
  4. Get your Program Director to say “Thank you.” This is just as (or probably even more) powerful as the ED. Go out in the field (or down the hall) and ask your program director to thank a donor via a phone video. Again, you will break thought the noise with this.
  5. Use a celebrity. If you have a celebrity that is connected to your organization, ask them to do a simple video, phone call or a hand-written note to a few of your donors. Wow, talk about powerful. “Hey Ms. Donor, this is [celebrity] and I just want to thank you…” Huh? Again, you are looking to break through the noise.
  6. Create a joyful disruption. Think about a normal event or experience your donor has, and disrupt it in a positive way. For example, say you have an event the donor attends. And when no one is expecting it, have someone stand up and specifically point out that donor and say something great about her. It would be totally unexpected. One time, a performing arts non-profit I was working with had a few donors come to a rehearsal and in the middle of the play, the actors stopped acting and thanked a handful of donors by name. It was a huge hit! There are so many creative ways to make a joyful disruption for your donors.
  7. Just because… The best thank you is the one that is not attached to any gift. Perhaps you have a donor that hasn’t been able to give as much because of a hardship in his life. Thank that donor even more, and let him know how important he is no matter what. Talk about breaking through! Thanking a donor when he least expects it will bring a vast amount of joy into your donor’s life.

That’s my list; if you have other great ways to thank a donor that will break through the noise, please tell other readers of the Passionate Giving blog by commenting on our site or on Facebook. I can’t wait to send you the one on Reporting Back!