Tag Archives: Ways to Say Thank You

Did You See My Thank You Video?

It was also an example of how easy it is to do a quick thank you video for donors. And I am hoping YOU will make one of your own today.

Film a thank you video

This article is not going to teach you how to set up formal acknowledgments. Hopefully, you have that set. Now is the time to start stewardship.

According to a report from Kindful and the NextAfter Institute, the first 45 days after a donation is when you are most likely to have the highest open, read and click rates. And, donors are most likely to give a 2nd gift or upgrade to become a recurring donor.  If you want to be remembered, here is an easy way to be grateful, stand out from other nonprofits, and maybe even get a 2nd gift.

How do you film a video to thank donors?

Just do it. You can decide if you want to do one for all new donors welcoming them with a new fact. One for major donors reminding them of some of the things you have been able to accomplish thanks to their donations. Or, one for your whole organization.

Decide, and then:

  1. find the best cell phone in the office/house
  2. find a decent background that does not distract (the viewer should not be able to read book titles)
  3. figure out how to prop up the phone (you can DIY it or buy something on Amazon)
  4. make the space as light as possible by adding warm lights (table lamps can help)
  5. start “filming”
  6. Macs have software to edit clips but try not to spend too much time doing it – it is an easy way to delay getting it out.  
  7. send it out

Here is what I learned when I did my video:

  1. I bought a ring light for $35 on Amazon. I like that it makes propping up the phone easy and has a remote to turn on and off the camera, but the ring light doesn’t work well if you wear glasses. I think my glasses-free kids will use it in the future for fun things. 
  2. It will not be perfect – so don’t try for that. I can pick out 6 things that I would have liked to be different in my video. I am guessing you didn’t notice most of them. And if you did, I am betting that it didn’t change the impact.
  3. I gave myself one hour to film. I did do it a bunch of times because it takes me awhile to get comfortable and not flub what I want to say
  4. I had a script that I turned into bullet points and put it up right next to the phone so that I could glance at that. (One of the things that bothers me is that I am looking in a strange direction but I think that is because of how I placed the camera and will change it next time). Keep it simple. This is a thank you with maybe one fact.
  5. I spent less than 10 minutes editing it.
  6. I felt really good when I hit send on the blog with it! You will too!

If you create a thank you video, please send me a copy at abigail@merskyjaffe.com or tag me on social media (LinkedIn or Facebook). I love seeing them and learning from all of you. I promise not to notice any flaws.

Originally published in January, 2021

Seven + Ways To Thank A Donor

thank a donorWhat is the difference between organizations that acknowledge and recognize a donor once or twice after a major gift vs. seven times or more?

Thousands and thousands of dollars.

Before you say that you don’t have the time to thank a donor seven times, please know that we do not mean that you, personally, should call this person that many times. In fact, that might be considered stalking.

Instead, we want your organization to determine seven high impact, personal messages of appreciation and forms of recognition for each major donor that the donor will also value. While this may seem intimidating, think about the letters, the calls, the listings and updates to the marketing materials and other tasks that can, and should, be spread among the entire leadership of the organization – both staff and volunteer.

This is the point where you say, “if you think it is hard for me to make phone calls and write letters, getting anyone else to do it will be seven times as hard.” This may be true at first, but leadership must be invested in the long-term success of the organization, and there is no better way of nurturing that investment than through the creation of personal relationships. Creating such long-term relationships, including establishing a series of ways in which the donor knows that a gift was greatly valued and enthusiastically appreciated ensures the development of life-long relationships. Brainstorming to find ways that the donor can be publicly recognized in a newsletter, signage at an event and even in your Annual Report, will provide more than just a way to let people know who has supported you in the past year. It is a way in which a donor’s peers can see exemplary, generosity that they would do well to emulate. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

What are the seven ways you can thank a donor?

  1. A handwritten thank you note from the person who solicited the gift
  2. A formal acknowledgement for tax records from the office
  3. A personalized thank you from the Chair of the Board on behalf of the organization
  4. A personalized thank you note from the Chief Professional Officer
  5. A personal telephone within 3 days of the gift having been made from a staff member
  6. A personal telephone call within 30 days from a member of the board
  7. An acknowledgement in the newsletter in a section on “Gifts Received”

Want more ideas?

  1. A listing on the homepage of the website titled, “Thank you for our recent gifts from:”
  2. A listing of donors by giving level (or in aggregate) on its own page of the nonprofit’s website
  3. An immediate email for online donations with an acknowledgement of the gift
  4. Instead of sending a letter with two signatures, send two letters.
  5. Every three to six months send a follow up report again thanking the donor for the gift and telling the donor what has been accomplished with the contribution
  6. List the donor’s name in the Annual Report among all donors at the same level
  7. A public display within the organization’s offices
  8. A public display of annual fund donors – by giving level or in aggregate – at an event
  9. A donor event

Those personalized notes and phone calls only take a few minutes each. If these letters and phone calls don’t seem to make the top of the priority list consider some creative ways to make it easier on yourself. Have someone in admin give you (or a board member) an addressed and stamped envelope along with two pieces of the organization’s stationery. Schedule a call a day into your calendar as you would if you were to meet with this person; it is just as important to remember to make the call. Have a list of calls you can use as a break from the intensity of another project – knowing you will need a few breaks a day.

If you would like to speak with Mersky, Jaffe & Associates about how we can help you find an acknowledge donors email me by clicking here.

If you would like to read more of our 10 essential articles:

10 Pieces of Paper That Will Help Your Organization

10 Ways To Make Your Executive Search Successful

Overcoming the Anxieties of Asking

Note: this post was previoulsy published in 2017






15 Holidays You Can Celebrate with Donor Stewardship

Donor Stewardship ImageHolidays come and go. We take days off, we celebrate with friends and family and, hopefully you express appreciation to your community through personalized donor stewardship.  At least, I hope that is what you are doing.

Any holiday can be used as a good excuse to call, send a handwritten note, send an email, highlight a beneficiary, or send a token gift.

But think of the holidays and how they align with your nonprofit.

New Year’s Day?  Talk about your hopes, dreams and resolutions for your nonprofit that you can achieve thanks to their gifts.

Groundhog’s Day?  Consider a cute gif thanking your donors that loops and references the holiday.

Valentine’s Day?  Try a short IPhone video with a beneficiary talking about how much they love the opportunity they were given thanks the donors support. Of course, handwritten valentines from children or chocolates are always nice too.

St. Patrick’s Day?  Send someone a link to a unique piece of Irish music.

Purim?  Arrange for mishloach manot – traditional food and sweets sent to friends and family

April Fool’s Day?  Send a few jokes to make people laugh.

Mother’s Day?  Why not ask a donor to make a donation, to a different organization that helps mothers, in honor of your nonprofit’s donors. Nonprofits acknowledging that the world needs help and we can help in small ways shows you know you are not the only organization in need of support.

My birthday? It should be a national holiday, shouldn’t it? Throw a huge party on May 29th.  Or, you could send a birthday card to your donors in honor of their birthdays. Whatever seems more appropriate.

Father’s Day? There are more and more organizations that focus on the positive role of fathers. Consider sending a list of organizations that you think do wonderful work and need more awareness.

Juneteenth? You may have noticed this holiday auto populate your calendars along with some others you can Google like Holi, Eid al-Adha and Diwali. You are not the only one who has to Google them. Consider giving a little information along with a way in which it connects with your organization. It could be as simple as sending an email that shows your nonprofit prides itself on helping others learn about the world or support people of all faiths.

Halloween? Send images of the things that scare your organization or just send a note thanking them for making every day less scary in your world.

Thanksgiving? Thank your donors. Or offer them ways to be thankful.

#GivingTuesday? This nonprofit celebration can be very useful if you know how to celebrate. Sending emails asking can help. But thanking donors for their giving can go a long way too.

Chanukah/Christmas/Kwanzaa? Each holiday has special traditions that talk about giving, miracles, and supporting each other. Think about how you can do more ask at this time of year. But, make sure you are also asking.

Determine what is right for your organization. If you would like to talk about ways Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can help your nonprofit, email me today.

#GivingTuesday Update – Development is Not Just Fundraising

#GivingTuesday UpdateOn #GivingTuesday I received 20+ solicitations.

On Wednesday, the following day, I received only 2 #GivingTuesday updates.

Only 2 organizations thought I would care about the results?

Here is a list of excuses I have heard from friends, clients, colleagues, and nonprofits around the world as to why they did not send an email letting donors know how much they raised from something like #GivingTuesday or an event:

  • We only reached 70% of our goal (let me know that and why this effort was important- maybe I will still give)
  • I don’t think anyone would notice if we did or didn’t send a #GivingTuesday update (wrong attitude)
  • We are busy writing our end-of-year letter and that has to be the priority (if #GivingTuesday is not important enough to do well, don’t do it)
  • It didn’t occur to us to do that. (that is no longer a good excuse)
  • We don’t really know exactly how much we raised yet (not confidence boosting)
  • _____your excuse here______

While I admit that I do notice details like follow up because of professional curiosity, I also take note because it shows me which organizations understand development is not just fundraising.

Please, please, please keep in mind:

  1. Development is a year-round process that includes asking, acknowledging, thanking, and stewarding donors.
  2. You should not send out a solicitation until you know how you will acknowledge donations, thank donors 7+ times and whether or not you will follow up with non-respondents.
  3. Number 2 includes online and social media solicitations. Basic development rules still apply.
  4. 7+ ways to thank a donor can include an email to everyone with an update
  5. Development is not brain surgery. In fact, most of it is common sense with a bit of creativity to make it applicable to your nonprofit. Sometimes you are not doing it because you just don’t know that it should be done, but if you have read this far, you now know. Follow up with a #GivingTuesday update (it’s not too late!). Follow up for everything. People can hit delete and they can unsubscribe, but the people who care about you won’t. The people who left you were not going to give to you anyway so let them go and focus on your real prospects and donors.

If you want to learn how Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can improve your development plan and stewardship ideas, email me

Maybe I can start a #GivingTuesdayUpdate as a trend for next year.

Want to read more about #GivingTuesday Results? The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a great article about the amounts raised.

Last Minute Ideas for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday Ideas

I think this #GivingTuesday will look different than previous years.

Many nonprofits will be asking for money and often forgetting basic fundraising rules – you know, like making it about the donor or telling a story.

Instead, consider some ways to up your game during a crowded time period and excite your donors.

  1. Lead up to #GivingTuesday as an event. Remembering that the goal is still to make the day about the donor – not just your nonprofit. What would interest them in a trickle campaign? – How about a “Have a poll/naming game” for a mascot, new lounge or title for a new program? Silliness, creativity, and/or something useless that intrigues people will play well because they know that you are trying to engage them and have fun – not just ask them for money. Announcing the results on #GivingTuesday with an ask will give people a reason to open your email (instead of the 50 other emails and social media asks).
  2. Ask people to give something besides money on #GivingTuesday. Whether you need volunteers to fill backpacks with winter necessities or people to work at an event during the holiday season – asking for something besides donations can be a strong strategy for deepening your donor relationships.
  3. Use peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising. The easiest way for you to get people’s attention might be to ask others to help. Facebook will help by matching donations and eliminating fees, so make a plan to creatively encourage your donors to fundraise on your behalf.
  4. Don’t have your act together for this year? See if you can figure out a giving event in December or even January, that you can promote on #GivingTuesday.
  5. Team up with another nonprofit for a challenge. While in theory, you are all competing for donations, in reality, there is more money being donated than either of you are getting. Embrace the giving season by working together to create something fun, engaging and somewhat connected. It can be a contest to see who can get more people to like a picture, donate a pair of socks (or some other small but valuable to your organization donation that can be given in person or online), or write something nice on an online “wall.” And, you guessed it, the winning organization and the results will be announced on #GivingTuesday.
  6. Thank donors before #GivingTuesday. I worry that nonprofits will have low open rates on the actual day. This is not based on fact, only on the huge number of organizations that will send me emails, social media messages and posts. – Because it’s hard to break through the clutter, you have to be different if you want to stand out. If you are not geared up to do a huge campaign, consider that you can use the time to steward donors and encourage giving during December – when a disproportionate amount of giving takes place. Whether you thank them with a creative email, a small gift or phone call, the point will come across that you are giving on that day and not asking.  While it may be tempting to send that on #GivingTuesday, remember that they will only see the thank you if they open the email and don’t automatically hit delete.

And please let me know what you discover!

Follow Up and Acknowledgements for #GivingTuesday Gifts

While the competition for #GivingTuesday gifts is fierce, there are a lot of people who decide to give their gifts on that day–especially if they want to promote their giving on social media channels.

Your job is to make giving as easy as possible, and then, follow up in a way that shows your nonprofit is a good investment. Here are a few follow up steps to consider incorporating into your next couple of weeks.

  1. Send an immediate email notification acknowledging the gift.
  2. Send a letter acknowledging the gift by Friday (this year it will be December 4th.) Add a personal note (ideally written by a board member) reflecting your answers to numbers 3 & 4.
  3. Check each name to determine whether this is a first time gift.
  4. Compare repeat gifts to previous years’ giving.
    a. If this is an increased gift, write a personal note thanking them for increasing their support this year on the bottom of the letter
    b. If this is the same gift as last year, write a personal note thanking them for continuing to support the organization that you both love.
    c. If this is a decreased gift, write a note thanking them for their continued support. Then, make sure they still receive a solicitation letter and follow up call in December. Make sure to acknowledge their recent gift and state that you hope they will match their gift from last year of $XXX.
  5. Include all names in a designated section of a January edition of your newsletter

And when #GivingTuesday is over?  Consider incorporating these ideas into your fundraising plan.  The more donors feel appreciated, the more likely they are to give again in the future.

MJA Challenge: Thanks for Your Giving

I couldn’t resist a bad pun to start off this Thanksgiving week challenge. In the past, we have advocated many different ways to show thanks to your donors. This week’s challenge is to think of 3 ways to thank donors that your organization has yet to employ.

If you are looking for ideas you can read Seven Ways To Thank A Donor or write a list of 10 ways that your specific nonprofit can acknowledge donors.  You can include formal and informal notes, consider signage, publications, websites and events.  Creating the list doesn’t mean that you have to use every possibility, but you will know where to start. And how to build up to 7 or more acknowledgements quickly.

Happy Thanksgiving.

How Many Ways Can You Say Thank You?

Thank you to all of you who participated in David Mersky’s webinar, “Stewardship as a Revenue Enhancer.”  It was a great learning experience for all and the collection of ideas was worth sharing with our entire learning community.  References to the particular case study have been removed but duplications were left intact to show the collective strength of the ideas.

To view the three page list, please fill out the form below and the link to the document will appear on the bottom of the screen.  We will always keep your information completely confidential.

[hs_form id=”7″]

As always, if you have any additional questions or comments you can use the comment box below or Email David Mersky

Communication Feels Good

CSA imageThis morning I received an email from the head farmer at my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – a sustainability model for local farms) and was so moved that I wrote back to her.  Why?  Not because this is the last week in what has been a good season.  Not because this is new and different for me – it’s my 6th year doing a share at a CSA.  But because she sounded so grateful, so satisfied, so happy.  In other words, she moved me to write her.  How amazing is that?

She was not selling future shares – they sell out and get a waiting list within days of announcing the next season.  She will not be asking for donations at any point – this farm is a part of The Trustees of Reservations and they solicit me from time to time via direct mail.  Yet she made me feel good.  And I wanted her to know that.

Communication whether as part of a thank you campaign, a newsletter, a personal letter in an annual report, a quick note scribbled on an invite or an email feels good to the person who receives it.  Well, as long as it is well written.

What is in a well written note?

A well written note should include:

  • A subject or purpose: No one wants pure fluff.  And no one reacts to a lack of substance.
  • Something that makes it personal to both of you.  The farmer was writing on a topic that could be incredibly dry but instead she wrote with such passion that I wondered whether her love was the reason for my incredibly oversized rutabaga. (It was larger than my 8-year-old’s head).
  • Feelings.  The reader will know whether you were excited, sad, happy or bored when you wrote your note.
  • Length- it can be two sentences or two pages – just make sure it invokes feeling.
  • It was written.  No one will ever know what your intentions were unless you follow through and write the note.

And the truth is, writing something with passion and substance feels good for the writer too.  Trust me.

Treating Board Members Like Donors

Different board membersA long time ago, you met a person so committed to your organization, so passionate about your cause that you invited him or her to help direct the vision.  A momentous responsibility that all too often quickly turns into an extremely under-appreciated role.

Board members are invited to serve for a variety of reasons: their skill sets, their connections, their work ethic, their checkbooks, their passion, their willingness, their relationships, etc…

And they agreed to take the position for any of their reasons: they want to help any way they can, they want to ensure the organization heads in a specific direction, they are doing someone a favor, they want to build their resume, they have the time and energy, they believe passionately about the organization, they were asked, etc…

And they each play a role in the makeup of your board:

  • The money
  • The worker bee
  • The know it all
  • The specialized skill
  • The will volunteer for anything
  • The bare-minimum person
  • The __________________________

Most organizations require all board members to contribute at a specified financial level.  And yet, as time goes by, the more helpful the board member, the less he or she is treated like a donor.  The money becomes an expectation, and as far as the “donor” is concerned, the money is a payment as part of the board expectations.  They are rarely solicited to determine an appropriate level of giving, just a few words in passing saying something like, “please give what you can.”   They get the generic thank you notes because the staff doesn’t feel that they need to worry about them (read: focus any additional attention on these people).

The problem with this situation is two-fold:

  1. The board members feel unappreciated – needless to say that this is never a good thing for any donor.
  2. The funds often decrease or disappear within a few years of stepping off of the board – even if there is an alumni board in place.

Why would organizations take those most committed to the organization, burn them out and make them feel unappreciated.   It’s safe to say it is not an intentional strategy.

What can you do?
Write personalized notes on each and every thank you.   Solicit them or have a fellow board member solicit them each year (this will also make future post-board solicitations seem natural and even expected).  Give them special donor benefits.  Treat them with respect and value.  And hopefully, they will reciprocate for many years into the future.