November 29, 2017

The 3 Things Your Donors Want This Holiday

Give from the heart and show donors your appreciation this holiday. No trip to the mall required.

Finding the perfect gift for everyone this holiday is, in a word, exhausting. Also see: impossible, frustrating, and expensive.

But while you stress over finding just the right trinket for your mother-in-law and fight crowds hunting down the over-hyped toy of the year, be sure you don’t forget to add one more name to your list: your donors.

recent study by the Association of Fundraising Professional's Fundraising Effectiveness Project concluded donor retention reached a 9-year low of 46 percent in 2016. This means that not only should you be thanking your donors now and year-round, but that building the communications and trust between you and your donors is more crucial than ever.

Freaking out that not only do you not have time for this, but that this might be the most difficult gift of all to muster? Don’t. While forgetting to bestow a little something on this audience could be quite costly, showering them with their gift of choice is practically free. They just want to feel thanked, involved, and impactful.

Three things. You can add that to your list, right? Here’s how, and why.

Thank yous

Emily Post rules aside, gifts deserve a thank you note. So major donations to a capital campaign or program fund? You betcha. Thankfully, this is can be as simple as the thank you notes you have been doing all your life. Try:

  • A handwritten card from your president or board chair
  • A photo and note from the end recipient of funds (Support kids? Who wouldn’t love a one-of-a-kind drawing?)
  • A video thank you from the team
  • Social media posts tagging donors and thanking them
  • A frequently updated donor page on your website
  • A small item directly related to the program (Receive an alumni donation for your university’s scholarship program? Send them an alumni car sticker or pin or Christmas ornament)


When donors contribute, it’s a sign they believe not just in your mission but the effectiveness of your organization, and they probably trust you’ll do right by their money. But if there’s a way to allow them to be physically involved in that donation’s journey from receipt to disbursement, it will build a much stronger connection and most certainly increase the odds of another donation the next year. How?

  • Update your donation forms to allow donors to indicate preferences, like the student receiving the scholarships major, or the county a grant is made in. Be sure to be clear if this will be used only as a suggestion and cannot be promised
  • Include large donors as part of the application review process
  • Give donors the opportunity to include of congratulations to the scholarship or grant recipient within the award package
  • Send out periodic surveys asking for feedback on current projects and ideas for new ones
  • Invite donors to quarterly meetings where they can hear about current and prospective projects and meet other donors.


We give because we want to realize an end goal -- to see more students tackle a career path or more arts programming in the inner city or more financing going into homeless shelters. But often donors can only assume that all came to fruition. Clearly updating them on the real impact that their donation made confirms their donation was the right choice, bolsters trust in your organization, and encourages continued support. Provide them:

  • A clear, fact-focused end-of-year report
  • A booklet of interviews with award recipients
  • Video first-person looks at the end projects funded
  • An invitation to visit the locations of funded projects to witness the improvement
  • Real metrics that demonstrate the value their donation provided within the project as a whole, and how a larger donation could multiply that effect

They say it’s better to give than receive. But by providing donors with these three things, odds are you’ll be receiving next year’s donation on schedule.

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