14 Ways To Thank Donors During Thanksgiving

Have you had trouble coming up with the perfect thanksgiving messages to donors this Thanksgiving? Of course, we want to use this season properly express our gratitude.

This Thanksgiving, our CauseVox team has talked a lot about how important the end of the year is from a fundraising standpoint. After all, many nonprofits and charities raise upwards of 30% or more of their annual operating budget during these few short months.

But we also know that your year-end efforts aren’t just centered around fundraising. You also have to be intentional about thanking your supporters in a sincere and authentic way. During this season of gratitude, don’t put Thanksgiving messages to donors on the backburner.

Why Thanksgiving Messages To Donors Matter

Regularly expressing gratitude and thanking your donors is more than just good manners. It’s an investment in time and effort that ultimately pays real dividends! 

When we say “thank your donors”, we aren’t referring to just sending them the necessary donor tax receipt. Beyond a basic acknowledgement, here are five reasons why going the extra mile to make your donors feel thanked this Thanksgiving is important:

1. Cultivates Relationships On A Personal Level

Being intentional about thanking your donors is key to effective donor stewardship. It shows your donor that they’re more than just a number and that your relationship extends beyond a transaction. Not only will showing genuine gratitude strengthen your existing relationship and build trust, it’ll go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of your work.

2. Makes Them Feel Needed

Thanking your donors makes them feel appreciated, valued, and most of all, needed. If you’re failing to acknowledge your donors, they may start to wonder if you really need them. If your donors don’t think that you need them, they’ll undoubtedly leave.

3. Keeps Your Cause Top Of Mind

Timely and consistent thank you’s keep you and your cause at the forefront of your donor’s mind. A well-executed thank you is a reminder of why they supported you in the first place and creates lasting feelings of goodwill, which certainly extends to when you are ready to ask for another gift or when year-end comes around.

4. Retains Existing Donors

Thanking donors is actually an excellent donor retention strategy. When a donor doesn’t feel valued, the likelihood of them making another gift to support your org drastically decreases. This is why a genuine thank you goes a long way in retaining your most loyal donors, increasing the chances of them making a second, third, or fourth gift.

5. Encourages New Donors

We all know that people talk and sometimes the best way to get the word out about a good thing is through word-of-mouth! When you show your donors kindness and appreciation, they’re more likely to spread the word about your cause to their networks, creating social proof that inspires others to donate or get involved. 

Your donors are the lifeblood of your organization. You know that you wouldn’t have the impact that you do without them and so do they. So, this Thanksgiving, aside from finalizing your GivingTuesday plans and preparing your year-end fundraisers, spend some time crafting messages thanking the people who mean the most to your organization.

Luckily, showing gratitude can be done in a myriad of ways. You’re certainly welcome to get creative but to get you started, here’s 14 ideas for Thanksgiving messages to donors this year: 

1. Engage Your Board of Directors To Make Phone Calls


Your Board of Directors isn’t just a governing body, they’re also your biggest supporters and most eager volunteers. As Thanksgiving nears, provide your board members with a list of donors you’d like them to reach out to for a quick yet sincere “thank you.”

Target your major donors, new donors, or any other donor segment that you feel needs that extra “touch.” Keep in mind the size and scope of your donor base before giving out call lists. 10-20 phone calls is a reasonable number for the average person. Any more than that and your board may feel overwhelmed. 

If it’s helpful, consider drafting a short call script for your board members to refer to in their Thanksgiving messages to donors. In the script, be sure to mention the donor’s name, the amount they contributed, and maybe add one unique detail about their donation (time, place, etc.). When done correctly, a 3-minute phone call can increase first-time donor retention by 30%.

This activity is a great way to keep your board members engaged in their role while also ensuring your donors are thanked.

Pro Tip: Depending on your donors’ communication preferences, a text or email might be a more organic way to connect. It’s a small gesture that’s guaranteed to go a long way in building a lasting relationship with your organization.

2. Enlist The Help Of Those You Serve


Over 5 years ago I helped coordinate a back to school supply drive. As a thank you, some of the kids that received supplies gifted our team some original artwork made with their new crayons and markers. I still have my picture today.

Your organization doesn’t necessarily have to work with kids to provide the same impact. Ask your clients if they’d like to help with your Thanksgiving messages to donors; they can be featured in a “thank you” video or share their story through a letter. When the “thank you” comes from beneficiaries, it’s all the more meaningful. 

Don’t forget that artwork can be copied and mailed to donors (clients don’t have to make 100 original drawings!) After all, it’s the thought that counts. Your donors will certainly appreciate it!

3. Send A Letter Highlighting Impact


Don’t wait until your annual report to start sharing the good news about the impact made with your donor’s dollars. This Thanksgiving, let your donor know exactly how they’ve contributed to the “bigger picture.”

Sure, you’re not going to have your final numbers in yet, but that doesn’t matter. Say something as simple as:

“So far this year, we’ve been able to give 100 single mothers vouchers for their kids to attend quality preschools. That means that you’re giving kids a leg up and their parents a peace of mind. This wouldn’t have been possible without your support. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!”

To really ramp up the personalization, skip the generic printed letter and opt for a handwritten note. Ensure that your letter isn’t sorted in the junk pile by making it stand out. A couple of options to grab your donor’s attention includes slipping your letter in a colorful outer envelope or using an envelope size that’s larger (or smaller) than what routinely arrives in the mail.

4. A Simple “Thank You” Card


Simple “Thank You” cards can be the best Thanksgiving messages to donors. Think about it: when was the last time you sent out a card to your donors that simply said: “thank you”? If it’s been a while, then Thanksgiving is the perfect time to let your donors know how much you appreciate them in this easy, yet personal way (if you’re using CauseVox’s fundraising tools, you’ll be able to customize an auto-thank you receipt and message to go out to all donors immediately).

Thank you cards are not as common as you’d think, so yours is sure to stand out. This is a $1 – $2 investment that can go a really long way!

Pro Tip: Avoid overly generic or formal thank yous. Make your thank yous personal,  authentic, and conversational. If your donor goes by “Bob”, it’s awkward if you address it to “Mr. Robert L. Smith, Esq.”. In addition to using their preferred name and salutation, you can make it more personal by including a unique detail that shows that you wrote it just for them. For example, if your donor supported a specific initiative or project, be sure to include that in your thank you note. 

5. Give Them A Discount as a Thank You


As a “perk” for volunteering during a service day, my former nonprofit employer handed out a coupon to a local restaurant. To secure the discount, we reached out to the restaurant’s manager and asked if there was something we could do to reward our volunteers and they delivered.

The coupon was appreciated by the recipients, brought in extra business to that restaurant, and also showed that the business was giving back to the community. It’s a win-win-win.

Partner with a local store or restaurant to the same effect. Once you’ve nailed down the details, mail the coupon or voucher to your donors with a simple note expressing your thanks for their continued support. It could be something as simple as “As a small token of our appreciation, please enjoy a free appetizer, courtesy of [restaurant]!

6. Spotlight Donors On Social Media This Thanksgiving


An easy and budget-savvy way to show your donors how much you appreciate them is by highlighting them on social media or on your website. Consider doing a “donor spotlight” or a “thankful Thursday” during the month of November that describes how they’ve supported your cause. 

If you want to thank groups of donors at a time, consider highlighting them using Facebook or Instagram stories. You can use Canva to create free and customizable Instagram story templates that you can download and schedule out ahead of time. Or, if you collect your donors’ social media handles, you can tag them in a post. 

Of course, consent is key. Before doing any of this, be sure to check-in with your donor first and get their permission to feature them. You can use this opportunity to ask them for a photo and a personal testimonial that you can publish. 

You never know, you may inspire others who come across your post (or stories) to donate too. 

Pro Tip: With social media, do not post the amount of their gift.

7. Send A Small Gift of Gratitude


As a token of your appreciation, consider sending your donors a small gift along with a personalized thank you card. Tie your gift back to your cause in some way. For instance, if your organization focuses on mental health, consider sending a stress ball branded with your org’s logo. Or, if you’re a children’s organization, consider a branded teddy bear. Some other ideas that work include framed photos, custom printed coffee mugs, or totes.

Sometimes sending gifts can be a contentious topic but an item with your org’s logo on it does help to promote brand awareness and visibility. Not only are you thanking your donor but you’re spreading the word about your cause in an effortless way. Every time your donor uses the branded mug or tote you gave them, they’re helping you promote!

Pro Tip: Virtual gifts like an e-gift card accompanied by a short, heartfelt message also lets donors know you care. They’re a convenient alternative to physical gifts because you won’t have to worry about shipping them.

8. Create A Video as a Thanksgiving Message to Donors


There’s power in visual storytelling and crafting a heartfelt thank you video can relay your appreciation in ways that written words or a phone call can’t. You don’t need a full production – in fact, a smartphone and good lighting can do the trick. We recommend keeping your thank you video short, sweet, and to the point (1-3 minutes should be sufficient). 

If you’re creating personalized videos, mention your donor’s name in the video at some point so they know that the video was created specifically for them. 

Pro Tip: Making individual videos may not be realistic if you have a large donor base. We recommend segmenting your donors and making a general thank you video for all, reserving personalized videos for your major donors. 

9. Invite Them On A Tour


Another great way to thank your donors is to show them the impact that their gift has made by inviting them on a site visit to see your programs in action. 

Introduce your donors to meet and get to know your clients. It’s an excellent opportunity for them to learn more about what you do, get better connected with your org, ask questions, and offer feedback. 

For those who are unable to come on a physical tour, offer a virtual option. You can host it over zoom or have a pre-recorded video.

10. Thanksgiving Donor Awards


Consider giving out annual donor awards and superlatives to show how much you appreciate your donors. 

“Donor of the Year” is pretty classic but you can definitely get creative with themed awards that align with your organization’s mission. For example, if you’re an animal welfare agency, you could have an award called “Animal Champion of the Year”. 

If it’s within your budget, consider pairing the award with a commemorative plaque that’s customized with their name, the award title, and your organization’s logo.

When brainstorming ways to get your award to your donor, consider holding an in-person (or virtual) awards ceremony, or include this in the programming of a fundraising event. If you don’t have the bandwidth for that, you can always send them via mail.

11. Throw A Party


Most of the time, when nonprofits and charities throw a party, it’s actually a fundraiser. But that’s not the only reason to throw a party.

Around Thanksgiving (and before the hectic holidays in December rolls around) plan a get-together for your donors. Don’t ask them for donations. It should just be a “thank you”—and that’s it. Depending on your bandwidth (and budget), your event can be anything from an intimate dinner party to a full blown festival. Consider whether the event will only be limited to donors or if it’ll be open to the public. If you intend to make your event open to the public, be sure to recognize your donors’ support by providing them with free tickets/admission and treat them like the VIP they are!

To keep your costs down, talk with a local business or major donor about sponsoring the event.

12. Donor Appreciation Wall


A donor appreciation wall is a visual wall-mounted display that recognizes and honors your donors publicly. You’ve probably come across one of these before – they’re usually permanent fixtures consisting of small metal plaques featuring the names of major donors, foundations, or corporate sponsors who have contributed financially. 

Fortunately, you can get super creative with these displays and make it a work of art. Consider playing around with color, structure, or theme for an out-of-this-world donor appreciation wall.

Pro Tip: Donor appreciation walls don’t have to cost a fortune. If you have a small budget, consider a digital donor wall. Not only are they more cost-efficient but they’re flexible and easy to update when it comes to making changes. Unlike a traditional donor wall, you won’t have to worry about it going out of style. You even have the option of making your donor wall immersive!

13. Mail Them A Welcome Kit


If you have a first-time donor leading up to Thanksgiving, consider giving them the ultimate thanksgiving message to donors: mailing them a snail-mail welcome kit containing various branded swag (i.e. t-shirt, fridge magnets, etc.) and additional printed material for them to learn more about your organization. To really wow your donor and take your welcome kit to the next level, consider adding:

  • A personalized, handwritten Thanksgiving message to your donor
  • Your business card (in case they’d like to reach out personally)
  • Printed copy of your most recent newsletter
  • Additional ways for your donor to get involved

Don’t delay in sending welcome kits out. Have them pre-made and ready to go so that they go out right when you receive the donation.

Pro Tip: Donor welcome kits don’t have to be limited to just Thanksgiving. If your budget allows, we recommend this as the norm for high-level or major donors. 

14. Surprise Them


I always go back to Watsi when it comes to rockstar “thank you” examples because they do it right. Out of the blue, Watsi mailed their recurring donors a printed book of beautiful photographs from the field.

If you feel like you’ve exhausted all your traditional “thank you” tactics by Thanksgiving, throw something new into the mix. Here are some suggestions:

  • Offer customized opportunities for engagement. For example, invite young, millennial donors to connect on LinkedIn for future meet-and-greets, or ask major donors if/how they’d like to get involved on a deeper level (serve on board, volunteer, etc.)
  • Compile and mail out your own photo book using a service such as Social Print Studio

You can never go wrong by incorporating an element of surprise into an otherwise standard “thank you.”

A “thank you” needn’t be big or elaborate to have meaning. It’s the thought that counts. 

Crafting Your Thanksgiving Messages to Donors

This Thanksgiving, give thanks to those who fund the change your organization creates. There’s no better time of the year than now to start planning your Thanksgiving messages to donors and let them know how important they are to you.

Integrate Your Thanksgiving Messages to Donors into Your GivingTuesday & Year-End Strategy

Only five days after Thanksgiving, one of the most important fundraising days of the year happens. Integrating your Thanksgiving messages to donors with your GivingTuesday campaign and year-end fundraising strategy is a heartfelt way to extend the spirit of gratitude throughout the holiday season. Thanksgiving serves as a moment to express appreciation, but it is also a mark to the biggest giving push of the year, so consider thanking your donors for their past support during this time while also inviting them into helping you achieve your annual fundraising goals over the next month. 

Expressing genuine gratitude can set the tone for the giving season, reinforcing the idea that their contributions matter and make a meaningful impact. By seamlessly weaving sentiments of thankfulness and community into your GivingTuesday and year-end campaigns, you create a more authentic and cohesive donor experience. Which in turn inspires continued generosity and fosters a sense of belonging amongst the supporters who make your important work possible! 

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