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Gratitude Greatness

From the time I was a little kid, my parents drilled into me the need to say "thank you" whenever I received something. Small or big—it didn't matter. Saying "thank you" is an integral part of being a good person. And, of course, my parents added: "Say it like you mean it."

But it's more than that. We feel the love when we are on the receiving end of a "thank you." We appreciate the recipient's acknowledgement of our gift or praise. We feel seen. 

The Fundraising Data You Can't Ignore

Your organization has multiple opportunities to shower people with gratitude. For example, you can say thanks after: 

  • Someone makes a donation 
  • People attend an event
  • A supporter raises money through a friendraiser 
  • Someone subscribes to your e-newsletter
  • A volunteer finishes their work for the day
  • A service recipient praises you for helping them

Why is gratitude critical to fundraising and marketing success? One word: Retention. In more words: Nonprofits are retaining only 45% of donors year-over-year. First time donors? The retention rate is an abysmal 18 to 20%.

You put a LOT of work into your direct mail appeals, email asks, donor meetings, events, and more and yet, at the end of the day, only 4.5 out of every 10 donors from 2020 will donate again in 2021. That means you need to really hustle to find 5.5 new donors to cover what you lost.

And when you do find those new donors, you'll only be keeping about one in five of them. 

That data should cause you many sleepless nights. I'll bet your CEO and CFO are very irked by it because acquisition costs more than retention. Retain more donors, have more money available to help service more people.

There are two words that can help your organization improve its donor retention. The magic words? "Give more!" No, no that's not it. The words are: "Thank you."

Does Your Nonprofit Excel at Gratitude?

I know how overworked you are. You have a million and one things on your plate at work. The boss wants more money NOW. More asks, more time concentrated on fundraising. Which is why oftentimes gratitude becomes the forgotten element of giving. 

But as I tell all clients I work with on fundraising appeals: The thank you letter you plan on sending donors, whether via mail or email, should be one of the FIRST things you work on and not just an afterthought.

My reasoning is based on research from Dr. Adrian Sargeant: "The thank you is the single most important piece of communication that your donors get." They have a higher recall of it than the appeal that generated the gift."

You spend more time than you care to remember crafting the perfect ask. Your donors? They're paying more attention to how you thank them after they've given! So if your gratitude game lags far behind your asking game, your donor list will take a hit.

Saying "thank you" pays huge dividends.

  • Thanking donors quickly makes them four times more likely to give again (McConkey-Johnston International).
  • A thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of a gift increases the likelihood of the second gift being 39% larger (Penelope Burk).
  • Calling to thank donors generated a 56% increase in first year retention and a 72% increase in revenues (Roger Craver).

Say It Like You Mean It

You've probably donated to a charity and received one of those perfunctory thank you letters or emails that acknowledges a donation has been made, mentions the amount given, and thanks you for being a donor to organization X.

After you read it, did you feel the love? Did you think the organization actually meant their thank you? Or did you walk away feeling less than satisfied with a letter that is useful for the IRS but doesn't make YOU feel useful and valued?

It's time for you to review and upgrade your gratitude game. Put a magnifying glass to thank you emails or letters. Look at your gratitude processes and see what could use improving or what new methods of thanking donors could be introduced. 

Yes, it will help bring more revenue to the organization. But more important than that, it's the right thing to do. 

How to Upgrade Your Gratitude Game

Watch Foundant's on-demand webinar, Take My Breath Away: Building Relationships One Thank You at a Time. In this webinar I talk about the importance of gratitude to the donor-nonprofit relationship; how "thank you" can become part of your storytelling, fundraising, and marketing efforts; and the numerous ways available for you to thank donors today and in the future.

This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency that partners with nonprofits to help them build more relationships so they can raise more money, serve more people and have more impact in their community. Ephraim uses his 20 years of nonprofit experience to ensure your fundraising and marketing are working in tandem. He crafts custom strategies focused on your website, email, content, social media, video and more. He gives you the resources and teaches you how to engage your target audience so you’re in the best position possible to fundraise from them. The goal? Stabilize your revenue and provide sustainability for your programs. Use this link to read Ephraim's nonprofit newsletter - - and this link to dive into his weekly podcast -

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