The first 2 posts in our Thanksgiving series, 5 Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors and 5 Creative Ways to Thank Your Peer-to-Peer Event Participants, discussed ways your nonprofit can augment its “thank you” messaging to donors and event fundraisers. Now, it’s time to thank your major donors. While these supporters would still benefit from many of the tips offered in our other posts, they may require a slightly different strategy since they are such major supporters.
1. Give them a ring. Remember that thing called the telephone that we used to call each other on before texting took over? Have your board members or even staff members call and say ‘thanks.’ Have this call be completely centered on your gratitude and not around another donation ask. Be sure this call is timely, within two weeks of their donation. This is a very effective way to show your organization’s gratitude at almost no cost.
2. Let them go where no man has gone before. Ok, people have been there before, but mostly just staff, right? Take your major donors behind the scenes to somewhere typically reserved for staff or those served by the organization or show them new public space before anyone else. Did their major gifts allow your nonprofit theatre to build a new entrance, your animal shelter to expand or your women and kids’ shelter was able to add more beds? Show them! Offer a special evening showcase of what your organization was able to do with their generous donation. If you have a physical space that is safe for visitors, showing it off can make a big impact.
3. Holiday cheer. Send your major donors a hand written holiday card just to say thanks and ‘happy holidays’ or ‘cheers to a new year.’ If you want to get real creative about it, send them a card with a photo of people/places/things the organization has helped or even a holiday ornament that relates back to the organization’s cause. If you do send a gift or token, ensure that it is not extravagant so that donors don’t doubt where their funds are going. A personalized card does not have to just be centered around the winter holidays either. Your major donors probably are not expecting a “Happy Independence Day” card with a thank you note, which can make it all the more meaningful. Birthdays and donor anniversaries are also prime times to let them glow in your bask of appreciation.
4. Socialize and recognize. Simple shout outs on Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels can be a great way to give your major donors recognition. Have someone at your organization hold up a sign that says ‘Thank you <insert major donor’s name here>’ and post it to Instagram or Twitter. This is a way to personalize your social media in a way even more unique than the hashtag.
5. Hear them out. Whether it’s a survey or a Q&A session for major donors exclusively, let them voice their ideas and opinions. Exclusive roundtable Q&A sessions are ideal for getting to hear what your major donors are thinking, but if time and logistics make that difficult, send them a survey. Once you’ve had time to examine their thoughts in the survey, personally follow up. Whether by phone call or a direct email, the follow up is crucial. Letting that person voice their opinion is important, but showing them that you actually listened and have considered what they said makes them feel like they, as a person, have a real stake hold in the organization, not just their pocketbook.
Major gifts are all about relationships and who wants to be in a thankless relationship? Take time to give thanks to these awesome people and your continued donor engagement and cultivation will be much easier. These tips can be helpful if you’ve been in the game for years or if your organization is new to the major donor space. For more, check out our blog, Major Gifts 101, for steps on implementing a major gifts program.