Show Gratitude to a Major Donor in 3 Ways

Jul 31, 2022Board, Donors

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How do you show gratitude to a major donor?

For instance, are you:

  • Thoughtfully creative
  • Sincere and heartfelt
  • Prepared and Prompt

Here are three absolutes to every thank you note to a major donor

The Board Member was horrified that the staff did not respond

Recently, a friend (let's call him Frank) shared with me his horror story of a nonprofit not recognizing a friend who made a very large gift. Frank was serving as board chair for an organization he feels deeply passionate about and has supported with significant dollars for years.

To explain, Frank invited a potential major donor and close friend as his guest to the organization’s annual fundraising event. The guest was taken back by the mission and impact the organization was making in the community. As a result, the guest made a $50,000 gift to support a program he learned about that evening. Needless to say, Frank was overjoyed that his guest was so touched.

Unfortunately, this heartfelt gesture turned sour.

The new major donor never received any communication from anyone at the organization.  To be clear, no thank-you note, acknowledgement letter, or phone call was ever made to the guest who made the $50,000 gift. 

Upon hearing the donor had not heard from anyone, Frank contacted the organization’s CEO to say that he understood that no one had reached out to his friend to express gratitude for his gift. Time past and the guest never heard from the organization.

As much as we believe that this does not happen, it does. Nonprofit staff do not always express sincere gratitude for gifts received or in a timely manner. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to show gratitude to a major donor.


3 Top Ways to Show Gratitude to a Major Donor

Be creative in how you thank your donors. Let them know how much you value them.


# 1: Make a Phone Call to your Major Donor.

At the very least, pick up the phone on Monday morning following your weekend event and share how much you appreciate them for supporting your program. Indeed, let them know how happy you were to meet them and have them join you.


# 2: Create a personalized video for your Major Donor

Create a script template before the event so you can take action immediately to thank your major donors. Then, either you record a personal thank you to each of your top donors or gather your staff and prepare a group thank you. Most of all, make each video recording personal – call them by name and add a comment unique to their experience at the event.


# 3: Send a personal note to show gratitude to a Major Donor

After you have made the phone call or sent a personal video, write a heartfelt thank-you note to show gratitude to the major donor. For instance, write about something unique, so the donor knows you took the time to write a note especially for him/her.


Summary to Show Gratitude to a Major Donor

Saying thank-you is often overlooked. Most expressively in this story in which the staff ignored a major gift from a new donor. In fact, this is tragic to a major fundraising program.

Above all, make your donors feel special; Make them feel like there is no one more important to your organization than them.

Check out Major Donor Acknowledgement Letter Dos and Don'ts.

What are you doing to show gratitude to a major donor? Let me hear from you.

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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