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Why We Say “Thank You”

Stewardship & Marketing: Donor Relations/Stewardship
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Session Spotlight: Thank You

In recognition of Thanksgiving this week, we asked Pamela Perkins Dwyer, MA, CFRM to share her thoughts on showing gratitude to our donors. Pamela is going to be presenting the session, Stewardship: Why We Need to Say Thank You" So Many Times, at AFP ICON 2024 in Toronto, April 7-9. 

If you're interested in learning more about this topic, and the 100+ other sessions at AFP ICON, register now!   

Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year provide perfect opportunities to again thank our donors for their support. During the holiday season, when we are eager to get donations in the door, we often forget that stewardship is an ongoing process. Immediate expressions of gratitude to donors are critical. However, often when we think we have properly recognized a gift, we forget that “thank yous” and stewardship are continuous, intertwined processes.    

Do you think of your donors as just people with money? Donors are more likely to respond to a heartfelt specific request than to the normal generic appeal. The key to effective communication of thanks is to reach the benefactors in ways that interest them. Thoughtfulness, caring, and common sense play a critical role in effectively expressing thanks. Donors want to know and observe how their dollars are supporting the mission and vision of your organization.  

Expressions of gratitude can be conveyed in many forms, not just the traditional note, newsletter, or annual report. A mentor of mine sends donors a customized Thanksgiving card along with a report of measured success, which is a document that highlights the yearly philanthropic dollars that his organization received and how they have been used. Other small things that can be successful are:

  • Small-group tours of your organization’s behind-the-scenes, day-to-day activities 
  • A special invitation to a year-end board meeting
  • An exclusive invitation to a lunch with organizational leadership

For more senior donors, a check-in telephone call or a short visit to see how they are spending the holiday season can be very effective. Remember to ask about children and/or grandchildren and other important people in their lives. If you discover that they are going to be alone, a small care package, such as cupcakes from a local bakery, might be appreciated.  

Just like fundraisers, donors are people, too; and, like us, they respond to kind gestures. That Thanksgiving card and impact report might be just the impetus that prompts them to continue to support the work their gift has already helped to make possible.   

I think of these ideas as nontraditional ways to express continuing gratitude. People like to be thought of — don’t you? I always strive to have my organization be the first to come to mind when my donors sit down to write a check or make an online donation. Remember the inspirational quote from Maya Angelou: ”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You can never say THANK YOU too many times.

Author Information

Pamela Perkins DwyerPamela Perkins Dwyer is the major gifts officer at the Los Angeles Master Chorale. She serves on the AFP U.S. Foundation Board of Directors. She is a member of the AFP Santa Barbara/Ventura chapter.  She earned her bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree from Boston University. She received a Certificate in Fundraising Management at Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy.

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