Smart for Good | Cultivating Thankfulness

by Elizabeth Finlayson, The Nonprofit Coach


In the busyness of the fall fundraising season, it's easy for all of those thank you notes to feel like drudgery. 

"Why can't we just have one donor give the whole amount?" I've heard people complain. (Maybe I've been one of them.)  :)

However, with average donor retention (translation: percentage of donors you keepat an abysmal 39%, timely, personal, and message-appropriate thank you notes should be a crucial part of your stewardship strategy.

Last year, I instituted Gratitude Mondays. My first official act of the week is to take stock and write a thank you note to anyone who made a business referral, met to give advice, sent a care package, or watched my daughter while I had a meeting (thanks, Mom!). The first week I did this, I got two excited emails in return, an invitation to a networking event, and an offer to meet for coffee.

The difference between this and slogging through mind-numbing thank you templates is profound. It starts with a personal feeling of gratitude and grows from there. Everything I do for the week is influenced by the knowledge that I cannot ask for more than I can thank.

Getting to December 31st with Your Gratefulness Intact:

  1. Summon passionate gratefulness- picture your life without this gift or person in it.

  2. Assemble a team of thankers- enlist board, volunteers, and staff to add notes to letters and make calls. This is stewardship for your board as well.

  3. Commit to signing and sending notes within 24 - 72 hours.

  4. Have everyone in your department stuff & send notes at the end of each day.

  5. Make sure thank you note messaging matches the solicitation.

  6. If possible, hire temporary data entry help or enlist team support.

  7. Take the Executive Director off the hook for signing donations below $100 (or $250 or $500) if she's too busy to do it quickly.

  8. Institute your own Gratitude Mondays, start your week with thank you calls to donors of $100 or more over the weekend.

  9. Be grateful for all your donors.

  10. Rev up your annual goals by hiring talent from Dugan Bassett Consulting to get new projects started while you enjoy the holidays!


Elizabeth Finlayson is a seasoned fundraising professional on the Dugan Bassett Consulting team. Elizabeth is known for bringing thoughtful analysis, new technology, and a cheerful attitude to her work. She has a background working with arts, advocacy, and social service nonprofits.