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The holidays are a great time to recognize donors’ contributions, time and support. Many nonprofits show gratitude with holiday gifts. Although this type of recognition may be much appreciated (and even anticipated), it could actually negatively impact donations, if not done right.


A recent study found getting a gift in exchange for giving one causes “a feeling of selfishness, which, in turn, reduce(s) altruism.”[1] In other words, promising something in return for a donation may negatively impact your bottom line. There are, however, effective ways to show donors the love with gifts. Learn more on holiday thank yous for donors and explore several donor recognition ideas below.


Donor recognition the right way


  • Send surprises: An out-of-the-blue gift (meaning one that’s not received in tandem with a donation) is a great way to show donors you’re thinking of them (and get them to think of you, too.) Choose something useful that doesn’t break the budget like a holiday cookie cutter or a Christmas ornament. A handwritten note that says, “A small token of thanks for your support,” makes a nice accompaniment.[2]


  • Give a gift that keeps giving: Gifts such as logo’d totes, travel mugs or tumblers (any) keep giving in the form of promotion. Reframe your gift as one that helps support your organization. For instance, imprint a tote with a cause-related message such as, “Support your local library” or a coffee mug with “Spay or neuter your pets.” Remind donors that displaying your gift helps support your mission. [3]
  • Pick up the phone: Did you know a thank you phone call could increase future donations as much as 47 percent? Consider holding a “thankathon” or “phoneathon” where board members and staff make thank you calls.[4] Provide some basic training and set callers loose to show appreciation for a year of support. You may even want to use this time as an opportunity to invite donors to an appreciation event or facility tour.


  • Say it with photos: Have your recent gifts been campaign-specific? Consider thanking donors with a photo book. Tell your project’s story from start to finish with images that capture it all. What a great way to show donors their impact while providing a treasured keepsake![5]

It’s important to show donors your gratitude. Just do it in a way that doesn’t hurt future donations. Win over your supporters with one or more of these donor

[1] Dooley, Roger. “Charities: Don’t Thank Your Donors with a Gift.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 8 Aug. 2012. Web. 23 June 2016. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerdooley/2012/08/08/donor-gifts/#c88e5cd74262>.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] “Why and How You Should Call Donors to Say Thanks.” About.com Money. N.p., 31 Jan. 2016. Web. 23 June 2016. <https://nonprofit.about.com/od/fundraising/fl/Thank-You-Phone-Calls-5-Best-Practices-for-Nonprofits.htm?nl=1>.

[5] Alves, Chelsea. “15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors.” Best Practices Tips and Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits 15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors Comments. N.p., 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 23 June 2016. <https://www.classy.org/blog/15-creative-ways-to-thank-donors/>.

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