10 Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors This Thanksgiving

Jamie Klobuchar

Thanksgiving season is here again! I’m so ready for the delicious food, quality time with family and friends, and a shorter work week. 

Another thing I love about Thanksgiving? It’s an opportunity to give thanks for your friends, family, and loved ones without expecting anything in return. After all, it’s the only time of year dedicated to reflecting on gratitude and sharing that with others. 

This year, I encourage you to apply this Thanksgiving philosophy to your donor “thank you’s” as well. Giving sincere thanks without an ask makes donors feel appreciated, confident that their gift had an impact, and generally more positive about your organization. Which leads to a stronger relationship and more gifts in the future.

To build those strong relationships, we recommend these 10 creative ways to show your gratitude for donors this Thanksgiving: 

  1. Have your development team, board members, volunteers or even program participants record a thank you video. Keep it short and sincere. You can intersperse the thank you’s with photos of your program’s work and remind folks how their dollars directly supported your work.  
  2. Send out handwritten notes. Doesn’t it feel great to receive mail? Especially when your name and address are handwritten on the envelope? Depending on your team’s capacity, you can print a nice note of gratitude and just have staff members sign or write entirely handwritten cards. Pro tip: Donors are much more likely to open an envelope if it’s hand-addressed! 
  3. Highlight donors on social media. We encourage you to highlight donors at all giving levels, not just your major donors or those with big followings. 
  4. Invite donors to take a tour. A great way to show you’re grateful is to invite donors to take a behind-the-scenes tour of your work, especially if they’ve never seen your campus or the work firsthand. This can definitely be done virtually as well if you’d rather not host an in-person gathering. 
  5. Throw a virtual donor appreciation party. A virtual party is a much easier lift on your team than an in-person event. To host a successful Zoom party, we recommend keeping it short and sweet. This is a great opportunity to thank your donors and share the positive impact their gifts had on your organization. You can also add in some fun activities, like a virtual game night, prize give-aways, or trivia about your organization. 
  6. Show your donors the VIP experience. Offer donors a behind-the-scenes look at your work. Maybe that’s a private panel with your CEO and an industry expert or a special performance by students. This is a great way for donors to feel special and to understand your work more deeply. 
  7. Share a “thank you” from those you serve. If you provide direct service, you can ask your students or program participants to make cards, take a photo, or create some artwork that could be shared with donors. 
  8. A celebrity thank you. Are there any local or national celebrities who support your organization? If so, you could ask them to show their support by recording a short video personally thanking your donors and email it to your supporters.  
  9. Send a small holiday present to donors. That could be a branded button, a winter hat, a magnet, a sticker--something small but nice that donors can wear or use to show their support for your organization. Make sure not to send anything too extravagant. Donors don’t want to think their donations are being spent on luxury gifts.  
  10. Host a thank-a-thon. Clear your team’s schedules to make thank you calls the week of Thanksgiving. You can even invite board members and volunteers to participate. To make it more fun for staff, try offering prizes for most calls made or best conversation! 

For more ideas on improving your stewardship during the holiday season and year-round, check out today’s freebie, an individual stewardship plan that lays out opportunities for engagement with major donors that you can implement right away.

And remember: you know your donors best! As always, take the ideas that resonate with your work and leave the rest behind.