Skip to content

Thanking Your Donors: Do It Right!

By Alicia Cerreto (twitter) Philanthropy Consultant, Alicia

August 4th’s Google Doodle celebrated John Venn, the inventor of the Venn diagram. I spent some time with my five year old son mixing and matching the different pairs:

Transport + Tiny = Clown Car

Sea Life + Thrives in Cold = Angler Fish

Musical + In Space = Commander Hadfield (!)

All images from:

I showed my son the video of Commander Hadfield singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity whilst on board the International Space Station, 250 miles above ground (YouTube it if you haven’t seen it!). The images of him floating about in his ‘tin can’, seeing the world from up high opened my eyes and for the first time I appreciated what it is to be fascinated by space. I was born in the late 1970s so I certainly learnt about space at school, saw my fair share of space movies and heard from my parents about the excitement of seeing footage of Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon for the first time. Despite this I’ve never really ‘got it’.

How does this all relate to fundraising I hear you ask? Well I’ve been thinking a lot about how we thank donors and the power of showing rather than telling.

Let me give you an example:

If the action of a gift is that we bought 50 iPads for the students at the local school, ask yourself how these different versions of reporting on the gift – thanking your donor – sound?

Here are some examples of a thank you sentence centred around activity
• Thanks to you we have purchased 50 iPads for the school
• Thanks to you we have purchased 50 iPads for the school so we could teach in a new way

Here are some examples of a thank you sentence centred around outcome• Thanks to you our students are learning in a more innovative way and teachers can cater to a wider range of learning styles amongst our students
• “Thank you, I love the new iPads!” says Maya, aged 9 who is now able to use educational apps to learn mathematics, English and Spanish.

And of course this is only in words – what about pictures, videos or even a visit to the classroom?

Focussing on the outcomes of the gift encourages us to tell a story with a beginning a middle and an end. We can show our donors the real people who benefit from them responding to a fundraising request, committing to a regular payment each month or perhaps making a truly transformative gift.

For me, seeing a real person floating about in space showed me the wonder of life as an astronaut – and really as a human being. Commander Hadfield himself said of his video “We have been amazed and delighted that so many people enjoyed it—and maybe saw what spaceflight can really be like. It helped show that humans have left Earth, and that the Space Station is a new stage, for not just science and exploration, but for our art and music too. With exploration comes insight—with perspective comes self-realization.”

Take a look: Ground control to Major Tom: Commencing Bowie video takedown

So I urge you – show your donors what it is that they are doing by donating to your organisation. Thank donors by letting them see their gift in action. Show them the impact of their gift.
Let them ‘get it’.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alicia, I applaud you for reminding folks of the importance of 1) thanking donors, and 2) letting donors know the impact of their philanthropy. I agree that we need to thank donors for outcomes not transactions.

    For readers interested in additional tips for thanking donors (things to do and not do), checkout: “Can a Thank-You Letter Contain an Ask?” (

    March 18, 2015
    • Thanks Michael! And thanks for the link to your blog

      March 25, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: