I am grateful pendant.“How do I tell my donor she made a difference?” the MGO asked. “I mean, there are only so many ways to do that.”
Good question. Jeff and I routinely tell MGOs that there’s no limit to how many times they should tell a donor he’s making a difference. You could do it every week. But then the question is about making each telling different and unique.
With that in mind, I asked our Veritus Group colleagues for some ideas they had seen work with the MGOs they’re partnering with. Here’s what they sent back to me, in no particular order of importance:

  1. If the donor gives to a kids’ camp, the MGO goes to the site when the kids are there, brings construction paper and markers, passes them out and asks the kids to write THANK YOU for helping me go to camp. They also draw a picture of what they love about the camp. Then the MGO drops off the artwork to the donor and watches the delight on her face.
  2. Create a photo book of program site visits with clients holding up signs that say, “Thank you Mrs. Smith.”
  3. If the donor cannot go on a site visit when the MGO goes, the MGO can take video of what she sees the donor’s money is accomplishing and send it to her during or after the site visit.
  4. Timely thank you/receipt package (obvious one) mailed first class within 24-48 hours of the gift with a short success story.
  5. Reports from the field (or the front line of program) with photos showing how the donor’s gift was used (for example, they can send a photo of homes that were built, to thank the donor).
  6. Personal transformation story. Could be a short video from the MGO at an event (just taken with their mobile device) which they send to the donor (for example, they can take a short video of someone sharing their story at the graduation program and tell the donor that because of THEM, this story was made possible).
  7. Handwritten card thanking them for the huge difference they made in doing (X, Y, Z).
  8. Phone call or email (or both) to share an update on a project they gave to, the status of it, and to thank them for making a difference.
  9. Face-to-face meeting that’s all about thanking the donor for the difference they made, backed by stories, photos, stats of the program they helped fund. But NO ask.
  10. One MGO at a shelter has donors who really value the religious element of the organization. So once a week, he’ll record residents singing a hymn (just a few seconds of it) and send it via email or text immediately to a few donors. He will write a note to say something like, “thought you’d enjoy hearing and seeing how great the guys sound singing hymns tonight!”
  11. One MGO sent a packet to donors who had given to a kids’ feeding program. It was a lunch bag with a picture of everything the kids got in their lunches each day, plus a few stats about the kids who’d been served.
  12. A MGO sent a picture of a framed photo she is giving to a donor who loves the arts – it’s a picture of the kids’ beginner band, and they’d all signed it.
  13. You know those photo books you can create online? One of our clients created one of those with a personalized message saying “Dear Paul and Betty, thanks so much for giving to (Name of Org). Here are some of the projects you have supported” – then the book included photos of the projects they support. It works really well.
  14. A MGO went to the building site, which was a result of a capital campaign, and with a black magic marker, he wrote the following on the wooden studs: “This is the house that Ann built. Thank you, Ann.” Then he took a picture of the studs and sent it to the donor with a note that said: “Ann, we are so thankful for your gift that is helping us build X. I took a picture of it in the framing stage and thought I would memorialize your gift through writing a thank you on the studs which will remain there forever. Thank you so much, Ann.”

So here are a few ideas. Please share what you have done with our larger Passionate Giving family. We would be happy to publish it.
And remember, it’s not so much about the form of the message. It’s more about actually doing it frequently and in a simple and sincere way. Thank your donor often, and tell her that her gift is making a difference. Not only will she appreciate it, she will stay with you as a partner in your mission for a very long time.
(Tweet it!) Here are 14 great ways to tell your donors they made a difference with their gifts, from Veritus Group.