10 Unique Ways to Thank Major Donors

When I was the executive director of the Community Resource Center in Denver, we used to get a call (almost every year) the week after Thanksgiving from a donor advisor telling us that a donor had just sold off a trust and would like to donate $50,000 toward one of our programs. Of course I always said, “Sorry, we have enough money” (just kidding).

Unfortunately, major gift donations do not normally occur this way. They happen because there is a BIG strategy, with BIG prospects, and BIG ideas. Regardless of whether you spent years cultivating the major donor or they simply just dropped $50,000 into your organization’s bank account out of the blue, people who make major financial contributions to your organization should be thanked. So, this week we’d like to share with you 10 unique ways to thank your major donors.

  1. Call your donors, especially the new ones and thank them, regardless of the level of their gifts.
  2. Invite them to a Q & A session about your agency.Every few months, invite six to eight donors to your offices after work (after 5 p.m.) and have a general question and answer session about what you’re doing and the impact you’re making. Serve light refreshments. Follow up with a phone call a few days later to thank them for their time and input.
  3. Have your board members personally call the donors that they know to thank them for their support (do this no later than two months after they have sent you the check or pledge). Don’t just thank people when they contribute. Thank them throughout the year — especially when you’re not asking for money.
  4. Send photos of the clients you have served along with a thank you letter. You could also send thank you cards signed by your students or clients.
  5. Send the larger donors a special gift such as a book or a framed picture of your programs in action.People like to receive these special tokens of appreciation and will display them in their homes or offices.
  6. Invite them to a year-end party at your board president’s house. This is always a nice touch. Developing this informal community will build a sense of commitment and partnership between the donor and your organization. Always use these opportunities to look for potential board members.
  7. Give them a personal tour of your organization and let them meet some of the people you serve. The people you serve are your best “salespersons.”
  8. Periodically, invite the major donors to attend a board meeting to meet the leadership and to get a flavor of how your organization operates. Just make sure the particular meeting is the “correct” one for this purpose. If you’re planning on ousting one of your board members at the next meeting, that’s probably not the ideal meeting in which to invite a donor.
  9. Arrange for special tickets and other perks for your major donors. See if you can get a good deal with the symphony or a local theatre company and invite some of your donors to go with you to a show or performance.
  10. When you read in the paper that a local bookstore is bringing in an author that has written a new book relating to one of your issues, see if you can “piggy-back onto” this event and have the author speak at a special event that you host for your donors.

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