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How do you thank your supporters?

Whether someone gives your charity their time or their hard-earned cash, it’s simply good manners to thank them.

That said, time is money. If you’re a paid employee of the charity, every bit of admin you do has a cost attached to it. If someone donates a couple of pounds, for example, it doesn’t make financial sense to spend an hour creating a video to wax lyrical about their gift and as proof of your gratitude. But, if a donor doesn’t feel that their donation, however small, has been gratefully received, they may not donate again. And though they only gave a couple of pounds today, who’s to say it wouldn’t amount to significantly more than this next time?

It’s a balancing act, deciding how you thank your donors, i.e. those who support you financially. You may decide on a blanket approach and create a video or graphic that can be sent out to anyone, anywhere, thanking them for their monetary gift. Alternatively, you may wish to personalise ‘thank you’ messages, though this takes a lot more time and some knowledge of the donor in question. A third option is a tier system, where small donations up to a certain amount receive a more generic message of thanks, whilst larger donations merit something more involved and individual.

A 2016 survey in the third sector, conducted by John Grain Associates (JGA), gathered some interesting statistics. It found that 20% of charities don’t place any importance on thanking those who donate less than £5. Also, half of the existing supporters surveyed, who donated online to their charity of choice, received an anonymous, generic email response in thanks.

As human beings, we like to feel appreciated in any endeavour for the effort we’ve made. If we were made to feel good about donating, we’ll be inclined to do it again and again. To convert an individual into a new donor takes more effort than encouraging someone who has ‘bought into’ your cause to give more/again. It’s therefore worth spending time on an effective thank you that can help in this respect.

When I talk about personalising a note of thanks or even a video message, I don’t necessarily mean simply adding the donor’s name. You can personalise your response by showing the outcome of the specific project they’ve helped to fund. It’s just as fulfilling and rewarding for a donor to see the faces of people whose lives they’ve helped improve, or the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of a community space’s refurbishment, for example. Maybe you have statistics you could frame/put into a visual format that demonstrate the positive impact a donor’s gift has made. It’s not just heart-warming for a donor to see the effects of their financial support, it’s also reassuring for them to see that their money has been spent on what was promised.

JGA’s research led to another conclusion, that ‘more than seven in ten people felt that the thank you they received was one of the most important communications they receive, but that the same proportion felt their acknowledgements were dull and predictable.’ The message relating to any thank you response is, of course, the most important thing; however, JGA’s report shows that donors would appreciate more novel ideas/methods relating to how a charity shows its thanks.

Whilst it may be quirky (and tempting) to have an airplane drag a thank you banner behind it as it flies over donors’ houses, or to employ Tom Hanks to deliver an appreciative speech via video link, you will likely deliver a different message…that of being wasteful with other people’s money. Whatever method you choose to respond to donors, it must be cost-effective. They haven’t parted with their cash to see it spent on a fancy symbol of gratitude; this could actually see them never donating to your cause again.

So, to recap, should you thank your donors? Without a doubt. Should you find innovative, unusual ways to do this? Absolutely. Should you blow a huge portion of the charity’s budget on such methods? No way!

For instance, a phone call could be all that’s needed (which is actually quirky and unusual in this day and age). Or an appropriate image of the outcome on a postcard sent to their address or by email (bear in mind, however, that some people are understandably wary of email attachments). For large, very significant donations, a plaque added to a bench/wall with the donor’s name is a permanent reminder of their support. Alternatively, naming a project/animal/building after them is another inexpensive but effective way of showing the charity’s gratitude and appreciation.

Elizabeth and Michael Dunn, writing for Greater Good Magazine, sum it up perfectly: ‘People feel better about giving money when they can sense the real-world impact of their generosity. Knowing that we’re having an impact on someone else is another critical factor in transforming good deeds into good feelings. What’s more, enabling donors to see the specific impact of charitable initiatives carries a huge potential payoff … the strategy can make people more willing to behave generously in the future.’


Would like help to form your ‘please donate’ strategy, as well as find out how best to say ‘thank you’ to your donors? Contact me on 0114 350 3354 or email


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