The Immediate Thank You Call

How many of us have started a 24 hour acknowledgment letter process and stopped making a quick thank you phone call immediately after (or on the same day) that a gift is received? I have been shocked at how well received I am when I call a donor just to say thank you. Sometimes I’ll hear surprise at a quick response or learn a little tidbit about their giving that I would have never learned in a letter or email.

More than anything else a personal thank you call means more to you from a real human voice instead of in a letter.  We still need to follow up the call with a quick thank you letter including a little reference to the conversation you had on the phone, but the phone call will make a huge difference. I find that a two minute thank you call does more to secure a second gift than anything else.

In fact, the ability to thank donors should be one of the most important things to your organization. If you are good at thanking donors you will be good at keeping and upgrading them too. You could build your entire development plan around acknowledging and thanking and be extremely successful. If a donor feels cared for they want to grow their involvement. Also thanking donors is one of the easiest things for board and executive staff to do. If you want to get your board involved in the fundraising process this is a great way to get them started.

Do you call donors immediately when you receive a major gift? How has that helped your nonprofit?


6 Responses to The Immediate Thank You Call

  1. Anna says:


    Thanks for the great blog.

    We’re trying to build up this practice at my organization, but are not sure how to get our Board to make thank you calls. Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Leslie Clay says:

    All donors get a typed thank you letter that can be used for tax purposes. Above the next level, they receive a handwritten note by me and above the next level, they receive a phone call. The handwritten cards are sent out within 24 hours and the phone call is made immediately – the last thing of my day is dedicated to getting the mail and taking care of any donations received. And yes, I have been known to make phone calls on my commute home! As I have only been in my position a year, I am still getting to know our donors, so the phone call is a perfect time to ask them what brought them to our organization. It is so interesting and gives me a way to know the interest of the donor. Haven’t tried getting board members to make a call, however, if one of their “contacts” makes a donation, I let the board member know.

  3. Christi says:

    At what level of giving do you thank your donors? I am sure that this depends on your organization, but is there some sort of guideline?

    Thanks for your blog. I just stumbled across it, and I am very grateful for all that you share.

  4. Dana says:

    Christi — every gift, every time gets a thank you, no matter the size of the gift. I used to have a donor who would send 50 cents and when I sent him a thank you letter for that gift, he would return the letter with another two quarters taped to it. He was giving what he could, and we we grateful for his generosity.

  5. Christi says:

    Sorry, I forgot to ask-At what level of giving do you thank donors by phone rather than in an email, etc. I work in a university, so the university staff will automatically send a thank you letter. At what point is it appropriate to spend your time calling? I would like to call everyone and thank them, but I am not sure that is the best use of my time. Any ideas?

  6. Margaret says:

    Christi, I don’t know if you’re still around, but here’s what I’d do: I would prioritize first time gifts, no matter the amount. Then I would start with the small gifts and work my way up. I’d get board members on board, and fellow staff members, in order to lighten the workload. I know it sounds counterintuitive, and obviously higher level donors still need to be called personally (they expect it). The value of calls to lower level donors is that they aren’t expecting it, they may have the ability to give much more in the future and over a lifetime of giving, and it is very meaningful for them to get a personal call. Adequately and thoughtfully thanking your donors is the number one thing you can do for donor retention.

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