A New Kind of Nonprofit Appeal for Thanksgiving

All too often, nonprofit leaders get caught up in the bottom line. Your development director may be careful to write personalized thank-you notes to donors of major gifts. And your online donation form surely includes a thank-you message. But for many nonprofit fundraising teams, gratitude is muddied with bids for future gifts. Some organizations thank donors because they don’t want to spoil their chances of receiving future donations. It’s a commonsense fundraising strategy, but not an innovative one.

Let thank-you notes, phone calls and landing pages remain a standard part of your fundraising operation. But incorporate donor appreciation into your nonprofit’s long-term sustainability plan too. We recommend nonprofit sustainability plans—which combine financial performance and social impact in every decision—that incorporate gratitude.

Sap and Sustenance

By extending thankfulness from your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy to its sustainability plan you’ll better separate the hope for future gifts from selfless gratitude. So how does gratitude fit into nonprofit sustainability? Quite nicely, actually.

It’s not sappy or saccharine to honor your supporters with thanks. As Katya Andresen explained in one of her classic nonprofit marketing articles, “from a physiological perspective, positive emotions such as gratitude may make people feel more socially attached to others beyond themselves.” It’s the “attached” bit of Andresen’s analysis that’s of particular interest to us here. When supporters are emotionally attached to your organization, they’re more likely to commit to your cause and self-identify with your nonprofit. For the long haul.

An Appealing Thanksgiving

Once you’re ready to extend gratitude from fundraising to sustainability, consider the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday your perfect opportunity. Before your nonprofit mails a single year-end fundraising appeal, catch supporters off-guard with a Thanksgiving message. Don’t ask for a thing—not support on social media, not their time and certainly not their money. Don’t refer to the upcoming year-end appeal. Don’t mention previous donations. Just tell supporters that, on this Thanksgiving holiday, your nonprofit is thankful for them.

For example, small nonprofits can thank volunteers by treating them to a Thanksgiving meal. Larger organizations can solicit help from staff to send handwritten Thanksgiving notes to every supporter, volunteer and beneficiary. If your nonprofit enjoys a corporate partnership, send their office a gift before they fill up with holiday gifts.

Take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to bond with supporters over gratitude. Express your sincere appreciation without a hint of expectation to make the biggest impact. Doing so will bolster supporters’ confidence in your organization.

How will your nonprofit express gratitude on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday?


Jill Havlat

November 12, 2012

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