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Quick Checklist for Brilliant Donor Thank You Calls

Having a strategy for donor thank you calls can be an important and highly effective component of your nonprofit’s donor stewardship plan.  

Showing timely and genuine appreciation for incoming gifts is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to strengthen donor stewardship and improve your rate of donor retention.

When you, your fellow staff, or your board members make a direct phone call to thank donors, this can have a major impact!

Quick checklist for Thank You calls:

WHO is Calling Out?

First, find out who from your organization is willing and available to call?

  • Your Board Members
  • Members of your Staff
  • Your nonprofit beneficiaries

From those who volunteer from these groups, choose only those who will be passionate and show genuine gratitude when calling your donors.

You’ll want your supporters to feel valued and excited about being involved with your organization following this phone call, so make sure the right people are reaching out!

WHO is Being Called?

Calling every person who donated to a specific campaign might seem ideal, but it usually isn’t realistic or even necessary. However, if you have a small donor base that you’re trying to maintain and grow from, you really should call every single donor!

For those with a larger donor base, focus your calls on the following groups:

  • Major gift donors (those who give the biggest quantity)
  • Fundraising champions (those who raise money on your behalf)
  • First-time donors
  • Recurring donors

For those donors who have made a substantial one-time donation, have made several smaller donations over time, or fundraised on your nonprofit’s behalf, they really should be getting some extra special treatment…

That said, don’t neglect your “small” or everyday donors either!  For a first-time donor, a small donation could be their way of testing out your nonprofit to see whether you’re a “good fit” for them or not.

Showing genuine and timely appreciation for a smaller gift could be the only thing that compels a first-time donor to give to you again, become a recurring donor, or even promote your organization to their social circles!

WHEN will the Calls Take Place?

Try making your donor thank you calls within 24-48 hours of when your organization received a gift. From Donor Centered Fundraising,

Donors who receive a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of making a donation give 39% more than those who don’t get a phone call the next time they’re solicited.

For the timing of each phone call, try during a time that is respectful of your donors’ personal lives.  Also, make sure you’re prepared to leave a short and sweet voice message if they don’t answer!

HOW will the Calls be Made?

These calls can be made on an individual basis by different members of your organization, or you could host a thankathon, where these calls are made as a group!

One of the many benefits of hosting a thankathon is that you can turn it into a fun event that brings people from within your organization closer together!

WHAT will be Said During the Call?

A thank you call script should be created in advance and shared with anyone responsible for calling donors, but make sure it’s used primarily as a guideline and not something that’s being repeated word-for-word.

A phone call that comes across as spontaneous will feel much more genuine, but you’ll also want to have talking points established in advance in case you get stuck or lose your place during the call!

Sample Script:

“Hi, [donor name]!  I’m [caller name] and I’m a board member calling from [organization name] to thank you for your recent donation of [$ donated].  I’m so grateful for your generosity and all of us from [organization name] really appreciate your support.  We can’t wait to see the impact that your gift and the gifts of others will make to [cause/campaign name]!  Thanks again and enjoy the rest of your evening!”.

WHAT will Happen After the Call?

Keep a detailed record using a Google spreadsheet or similar tool to keep track of which donors you called, when you called them, what you thanked them for, and if there were any talking points that require action from you.

For instance, if you told a donor you’d be sending them an email update, then you should schedule it on your calendar/to-do list OR do it right away!

Measure the impact of your thank you calls by taking note of any actions that took place after the calls were made. These include:

  • Any additional donations made
  • Volunteer hours contributed
  • Fundraising champions developed
  • New supporters gained through existing donors

If you see a positive difference in engagement and support following these phone calls, you should develop a strategy that incorporates calling your supporters on a more frequent – and strategic – basis!

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