5 Steps to Donor Thank-You Calls: Show You Care During a Crisis

Mar 26, 2020Donor Appreciation, Donor Communication, Donors, Fundraising, Fundraising Success, Leadership, Message, Nonprofits, Philanthropy, Relationships

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It’s time to make donor thank-you calls. It’s time to show gratitude.

This virus crisis is not going away tomorrow.

With the chaos and instability, let’s pause and think about
what needs to happen.

Let’s be thoughtful by showing gratitude to our donors.

Clearly, you want to make sure your top donors feel valued and appreciated before seeking any additional funding, and donor thank-you calls are the perfect way to check in with your donors.

As of this writing, the stock market plunged for a fourth time in two weeks, the coronavirus has been reported in all 50 states and DC and continues to grow, our inboxes are flooded with urgent messages, and on a personal note — a friend’s wedding is canceled.

News is coming in faster than can be digested. As soon as I finish material to share with you, it needs to be updated!

These are uncertain times.

No doubt, these are unstable times for nonprofits in how you serve your mission.


With the uncertainty and instability in how you serve your mission, there is one thing for sure: Hop on the phone right now with your top donors.

I urge you to start making donor thank-you calls. Learn more here about Donor Communication.

I call them “I care about you and want to make sure you are doing ok” calls.

It’s important to find out how your donors are faring in this crisis. You want to show you care.

We are in crisis mode and want to hear from our friends. Your donors are your friends. They have provided meaningful support to your organization and been there for you.

Now let’s turn the tables.

To make it easy for you, here are five steps to an “I care about you” call:


When you make a donor thank-you call, introduce yourself by stating both your first and last name and your nonprofit. You don’t want the donor to have to guess or be put on the spot that they should recognize your voice. Make sure they are comfortable from the start of the call!


Your top donors are a part of your organization’s circle of friends. Check-in with your donors like you would a friend, an aunt, a grandparent, or a neighbor, for example.

Donor Status

First, find out how your donor is doing with the virus scare and staying home. Allow them to talk as much as they need. They may be lonely, fearful of getting the virus, concerned about their investments, or a number of other things.

Be a good listener.

For your more senior donors, ask if they have ample groceries and necessary medicines, for example. You are not necessarily offering to run errands for them. It’s a way to let them know you are concerned about their wellbeing – because you are.

Allow for the conversation to unfold. Your most loyal donors will ask how the organization is holding up. They know the mission, so they will likely ask specific questions. That’s good! You want that.

Beneficiary Status

When they ask about the organization’s status, be open and provide an update. They want to know and be in the know.

Are the doors closed and all staff working from home? Is there a skeleton crew making sure critical services continue? Are you seeking additional volunteer support? What are your plans moving forward?

Every nonprofit is different and is being disrupted by the virus threat in a range of ways.

Don’t be shy about sharing your organization’s status. In fact, be ready to share your organization’s critical needs.

If the virus disruption is hurting your services, beneficiaries, ability to serve, for example, let the donor know.

The donor will likely ask how they can help. Again, be ready.

Even though this is not a solicitation call, be ready with an answer. Know exactly how a donor can help and what a gift can do to address your current needs.

While this is an “I care about you and want to make sure you are doing ok” call, know your priorities and freely share your needs.


Once you provide a quick update on the status of your organization, roll right into letting them know how much you appreciate their support.

Share how grateful you are for their ongoing support and how their support is allowing you to still serve the audience and community.

Be sincere and genuine.


Absolutely let them know that it is because of them that your organization has accomplished what it has.

If possible, share a recent story that will resonate with them.

You know your donors; share successes that are meaningful to the donor.

Be personal in how you say thank you.

Again, if they ask how they can help in this crisis, let them know.


Now, wrap up the call gently. Always be slow to end the call. You don’t want them to feel they are a name on a list and you are ready to check them off.

Thank them again for their support and for taking the time to chat. Let them know you will stay in touch. And end the call.


In summary, failing to communicate with your top donors is poor judgment. They want to know what is going on and how you are continuing to serve the mission.

But it’s also time to say thank you.

You are mainly calling to check on donors, say thank you, and provide an update on the status of your organization.

Of course, be ready with priorities if they offer to provide additional support at this time.

Donors are our friends. Don’t abandon them when they feel uncertain, scared, and fearful. Give them emotional support.

For a few hours each day for the next two weeks (or longer), focus exclusively on your top donors.

Be there for your donors because they have been for you and will be there for you again.

Here is more information on combating the coronavirus threat to fundraising at your organization.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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