year-end giving

I’m here with some truth bombs.

“The season to give is not a reason to give.”

Want the #1 way to ensure your donors give and give generously to your cause this holiday season?

Tell them now what kind of impact their most recent gift had.

Tell them even if you already thanked them promptly after they made their gift. That was a thank you.

I’m asking you to report back to describe for them how their gift made a difference. What was better because of them? What’s one tangible thing can you give them credit for?

It won’t shock you that the #1 reason donors cite why they stopped giving is over-solicitation. It may surprise you, however, that donors don’t define over-solicitation as receiving too many appeals. They define it as being asked to give again before they knew their first gift had an impact.

Study after study tells us that the #1 reason why donors give is being moved at how their gift can make a difference. Do you want them to give again? It’s as simple as sharing what they achieved with their gift. 

In one study, “Learning to Say Thank you: The Role of Donor Acknowledgements” Planned Parenthood sent an email stewardship piece before a renewal. The email genuinely paid tribute to what the donor made possible: “Thanks to your donation, we did not have to turn away a single patient. We were there to hold every hand every time we were needed. We were there to respect, not judge, every patient until the last moment they needed us. We were there to protect, not harm, every person until their need was met.”

Those who got the email gave on average $45 more than those who did not. This was a 67% increase in giving!

In another study by Food for the Poor, 25,000 donors received an extra thank-you at the beginning of the year. The mailing was a simple expression of gratitude for past generosity. There was no ask or reply device included. 25,000 did NOT receive the extra thanks.

12 months later both groups gave the same number of gifts but the group that got the extra thank you gave $450,000 more that year. 

Ready to thank donors? I’m here to help! What can you do now to warm them up? Any (or all) of these 4 strategies are great ways to warm up your donors before an end of year ask: Thankathons, personal calls, email stewardship and thank you letters. 


What’s a thank-a-thon? It’s when a group of people (ideally your board members) gather to call and thank donors for their gifts. Why is recruiting board members ideal? Because thank you calls from board members have been shown to have a huge impact on giving. According to research from Penelope Burk, a thank-you call from a board member to a newly acquired donor within 24 hours of receiving the gifts will increase their next gift by 39%.

14 months later, those same donors were giving 42% more and had 70% retention! 

Set your board members up for success in a thankathon by giving them sample thank scripts, 3-4 discovery questions and a short story about a ‘win’ should they get a donor on the phone. Don’t forget to have plenty of phone chargers on hand. 

Personal calls can also be made using scripts like the ones below. If making personal calls, try blocking an hour of your day on your calendar for a stewardship “power hour”.

Here’s some sample scripts for thank you calls, email stewardship or personal letters:

“Hi_______ ,

I’m John Smith, I’m a board member of Ronald McDonald House. I want to thank you and share the impact of your gift.  Because of you, Frank and Angie – worried parents of twin newborns in the NICU have a warm, safe comforting home away from home. Thanks to you these parents can comfort their sick and fragile twins until they are well enough to come home.” 

“Hi ________,

I’m Ruth Washington, a board member of Operation School Bell. We’re do thankful for your generous gift this year. Your gift helped Laura, a 10-year-old 4th grader living in poverty. Laura never knew how having new clothes felt until now.  The counselors at Laura’s school saw she needed help. Because of you Laura has new clothes for school, including a pair of pants, a sweatshirt, a polo shirt, underwear, socks and toiletries. For the first time ever, Laura has new clothes to wear to school. Her parents and teachers love seeing her arrive at school each day in her new outfit, ready to learn! We have you to thank. This is all because of you!”

Ideal discovery questions to give a board member calling to thank donors. These are to have on hand should they get a donor on the phone who is willing to chat.

  1. What inspired your generous gift?
  2. Why does our cause matter to you?
  3. Do you have any feedback for us?
  4. Is there any way we can make your experience more positive?
  5. How can we get you more involved?  May I invite you to _______?  May I introduce you to ______?

Email stewardship or personal letter

You can use a personal story like the scripts above or a simple before/after formula using the length of time since your first donor’s gift such as:

“It’s only been _______ months and already your gift has __________ (insert amazing accomplishment here)”

If your donor has been giving to you faithfully for years celebrate that in their letter:

“Three years ago you because part of our family. You’ve already __________ (insert fantastic win the donor made possible)”

Being reminded of their loyalty is a powerful yet subtle reminder to the donor you really are one of their top philanthropic priorities and you can never go wrong reminding them of that! 

Remember, the thank you is the single most important communication a donor receives. According to world renowned fundraising researcher Adrian Sargent they have a higher recall of it than the appeal that generated the gift!    

Rachel is the Nancy Drew of bad giving experiences and she’s also revealing the unseen pitfalls in your online giving process that is costing you lost gifts so you can repair it, just in time for a profitable year end! Learn more in the End of Year Readiness Clinic.

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.