Pop Art Thankuary

Thankuary: Donor Love for the Win!

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There’s a new word for us fundraisers that I just love.  It’s not in the dictionary (yet), but it can really help you do great work.

It’s Thankuary.

Thankuary is a period of time when smart fundraisers focus on thanking their donors. The term was coined by our amazing friends at The Better Fundraising Company.

Thankuary is good for your soul. As a fundraiser, zeroing in on gratitude really gives you a boost.

It’s also good for your bottom line. Because thanking donors encourages them to keep on giving!

Here’s my take on a set of guidelines for an effective Thankuary:

When to celebrate Thankuary

One cool thing about Thankuary is you can do it at any time. You can also make it last as long as you want, and you can make it as elaborate as fits your budget and capacity.

The name implies that Thankuary is in January (or maybe February). If you’re in North America or Europe, that’s likely a great time to do it: You’ve just finished the biggest giving time of the year, and now you’re in what is for many a slow-giving period. Perfect for concentrating on thanking.

If you’re Down Under, you might want to avoid January, as a lot of donors won’t be paying attention because of the Summer Holiday.

But you can do Thankuary any time of year. You can even do it more than once a year.

What to do for Thankuary

Here’s the fun part.

Brainstorm. About your gratitude.

Ask yourself what could you do and say that would make donors beam with joy? What would surprise them with the impact they are making through their donations? What would make them brag to other donors about the treatment they get from you?

Here are some ideas:

Special thank-you email to all donors about the difference they made. Better yet, a series of three or more emails. You can look back at what happened in the previous year, or just at what has happened recently.

Special direct-mail thank-you letter to donors. Like the email, but it’s even warmer when it’s on paper in their hands.

A thank-you card.

A special edition of your donor newsletter. Sure, your donor newsletter is all about thanking donors anyway. But why not do one that’s even more so?

A thank-you phone-a-thon. Have staff, board members, and volunteers make calls just to thank.

“Thinking of You” gifts. Flowers. Candy. A good book. Think of affordable but appreciated tokens of thanks. (Watch your budget on this one!)

More wonderful Thankuary ideas from members of The Fundraisingology Lab:

Sarah Berman, Macular Degeneration New Zealand

We call donors to say thank you regardless of the size of the gift. After our donors realise we aren’t calling to ask, just to thank, we have lovely conversations with them. They are keen to share and more often than not they are full of praise for the good work we do. They love it, we love it!

Mary Callan, USA

Sometimes we send small gifts (things like holy water and blessed items), a call, or a note if we hear a family member is sick, random photos of their donations at work. We try to keep it simple but meaningful, which usually means doing for them what we’d do for good friends!

Beck King, Flinders Foundation, Australia

I love to ask people to come in and see a lab where research is happening, to meet a researcher. They love it and that’s our way of showing we care – by showing them how they’re making a difference.

Andrea Silva, Citizen Diplomacy international of Philadelphia, USA

We sent donors a video of our executive director doing the happy dance.

Michelle Tribe, Ottawa Humane Society, Canada

We respect their wishes: when it comes to how their name is written, their mailing preferences, their phone preferences, their name on the donor wall… We respect what they tell us they want.

How to write the best thank-you letter

  • The main thing: Thank you. Say it more than once!
  • Tell the donor what her donation is doing. Surprise her with how powerful her giving is.
  • Be sure to do more than thank her for the transaction. Thank her for being the kind of person she is, someone who shares your values and puts those values to work.
  • Be careful not to turn the message into a brag about how awesome your organization, staff, or processes are. This is about the donor.
  • Tell a brief true story about the difference she’s making. (Tell her with a story, not with statistics.)
  • Tell the donor how her donation makes you (the signer) feel. That’s an important part of helping her see how appreciated she is.
  • If this is a first-time gift, be sure to welcome the donor to the family.

Want to learn more about thanking donors? Join The Fundraisingology Lab. We have courses and access to the creative community that can help you really improve your donor thanking.

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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