year-end appeal acknowledgement process

As Labor Day approaches in the United States, you will read about and be invited to many webinars helping you and your fundraising team prepare your year-end appeals. In addition, there will just as much stating you need to prepare for your Giving Tuesday appeal(s).

However, very seldom (if ever) do you hear about any suggestions or best practices regarding the just as important, if not more so, process of thanking and following up on those donors who respond to the appeals in the final quarter of the year.  

Maybe this is why overall Donor Retention is below 50% for most charities, and First-Time Donor Retention is even worse hovering between 28-32%!

The Trend Can Be Changed!

Your donor retention levels don’t have to be just average, or at levels considered deplorable by the commercial business world when compared to their Customer Retention Levels.


Simply take an EQUAL or nearly equal amount of time to plan for the year-end appeal acknowledgement process as you did for the appeals themselves!

Sound too easy?   

Honestly, it truly can be…

Let’s compare just two of the planning and processes for both the appeal and the appeal follow-up.


A key part of the success of any appeal is the segmentation of the list. This ensures a more meaningful and perhaps personal message can be used for each person or family being communicated with.

Segmentation is just as vital for the thank you process.

Keeping the thank you as personal and meaningful as possible by various segments can help improve retention rates by letting the donor know they are special.

Here are ten segmentation ideas to consider:

  1. Gift amount for this gift
  2. Gift level of lifetime giving
  3. Number of years of consecutive giving
  4. First time versus repeat donor
  5. Returning lapsed donor of one year
  6. Returning lapsed donor of multiple years
  7. Donors who increase their gift amount
  8. Donors who decrease their gift amount
  9. Donors who move to monthly giving
  10. Donors who have now given more than one time this year

Multiple Touch Points

Just like a second appeal letter or email can increase giving significantly in any campaign, multiple touches in the 90 days following the receipt of a gift can improve the likelihood of a future gift dramatically!

Here are ten additional gift acknowledgement touches to consider:

  1. Thank you phone call
  2. Handwritten thank you note  
  3. Thank you text
  4. Thank you email (if a thank you letter was first sent)
  5. Welcome kit
  6. Event invite
  7. Newsletter with a handwritten note attached
  8. Invite to come for a tour
  9. Invite to meet for coffee or lunch
  10. A brief survey

A brainstorming session with your team should yield even more options depending on where your donors are located and the type of mission your fundraising efforts are supporting


The ideas above are easy to plan out and put into place. Honestly, just a small amount of planning and then execution of the plan can yield outstanding results.

Plus, once the planning for proper follow-up is done, much of it can be used over and over.

However, the very best part of a proper year-end appeal acknowledgment process is that the next appeal itself will be much more successful!   

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.