Funding Change Consulting Blog Advice

Thanking Your Donors: What We’ve Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate
Donor Gratitude Series (part 1 of 4)

When donors know they matter, they're more likely to stay.

The number one reason supporters stop giving to organizations is because they don’t think their donations make a difference.

There are so very many reasons donors might have for not donating…but when asked, the most common explanation boils down to feeling like they don’t matter.

Think about that for a minute. I’m serious…stop reading and take it in. I’ll wait here.












Now that you’ve had a moment to pause, let ask you this…Why do you think donors fail to understand how important they are?

It’s because the nonprofit (maybe your nonprofit) isn’t telling them!

Or at least, you’re not telling them in the way they want to be told, in a way that resonates with them, in a way that’s memorable, in a way that makes them feel good…

This isn’t new information. We’ve known for a while that supporters don’t realize the critical role they play in our work. And yet not much is changing. Donor attrition and donor retention rates are both still in the toilet.

Hence one of the reasons for this donor gratitude series. Here are some others…

  • Donors who were thanked were an average of 51% more likely to pledge again the following year.
  • Donors called by a board member within 24 hours of their gift being received gave up to 39% more the next time they are solicited.
  • Donors who only received a voicemail were more likely to give the following year than those who received no call.
  • Even calls made months after gift receipt made a difference.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be telling you everything you need to know to properly thank your supporters.

Frankly, it’s mind boggling to me that this is still such a hurdle for nonprofits. Given abysmal donor retention rates and the proven importance of thanking supporters properly, I can’t comprehend why this aspect of development work is so often ignored or poorly executed.

I have two theories…both equally enraging to me.

One is that you’re just not taking or prioritizing the time to properly thank your supporters. The other is that you don’t have the buy-in of the powers that be on your staff and board to make it happen. And it could certainly be both!

If you’re not prioritizing donor appreciation, then start. Now. Today. Given how important this is and the proven results, there is no excuse.

If the powers that be don’t believe in prioritizing donor appreciation, then start pushing them.

Share this post and the ones that will follow.

Share the research on the importance of thanking your donors. A quick Google search will give you everything you need but here and here and here are a few to get you started.

Share the data on donor retention averages across the nonprofit sector and how yours compare. (You do know your donor retention rate, right?)

And if all that fails, find another job. Seriously.

Life is too short to work someplace that doesn’t embrace this most basic development function and then expects to build relationships with supporters and raise money from them. It’s an insult to you and the donors funding your work.

But I digress…

So I ask you, what are the challenges you face in thanking your donors? Do you not know how? Do you feel like you don’t have the time? Are the staff and board not doing their part?

Tell me!


Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
November 27, 2018

Leave a Reply



Don't miss out! Subscribe and share with your colleagues!