6 Steps for Thanking Donors Over the Phone

By: Samantha Tokarczyk


How is your organization thanking donors?

The golden rule is to thank your donor’s seven times. One way to thank your supporters is by picking up the phone and calling them. For nonprofit organizations, retaining donors may be challenging, and that is why making thank you phone calls is so importantboardthankyoucalls. Making a thank you phone call within 48 hours of receiving a donation has great impacts on an organization. For example, of those who are called give an average of 39% more than those who where not called, and they ended up giving 42% more after 14 months.

Claire Axelrad recently wrote for Network for Good emphasizing the importance of retaining donors. She addressed the value of organizations picking up the phone to personally thank their donors and supporters. Claire illustrated six steps to help organizations create and implement a strategy for successful thank you calls.



1.  Which donors do you call? 

For a large organization or for most organizations it will be nearly impossible to call every single donor to thank them. Therefore it is essential that you prioritize who you call. Depending on the organization, you may call donors at the major gift level, or first-time donors. Or perhaps your organization calls those who make a significant increase in their donation or those who reach an augment milestone in their giving.

Recommendation: Test this out by calling various donors from each level to see which calls result in higher renewal rates.

2. Who should make the call?

Essentially your organization wants the caller to be genuine and passionately grateful. People in your organization who may be legitimately and vocally grateful are board members, staff, and possibly very dedicated volunteers.

Recommendation: Spend 30 minutes a day calling to thank donors so that you do not begin to sound like a robot checking names off a list. Also switch up who calls to avoid sounding robotic.

3. When do you call? 

The best time to call is within a month of the donation, however for new donors and major gifts it is optimal to call within 48 hours of their donation. Once a month has past, a phone call may seem morephoto-1435527173128-983b87201f4d like a solicitation than a thank you.

Recommendation: Pick a date around the time you know you will be receiving many
gifts and get your board together to make calls. You can even make this a bonding event for your board members as you all call donors to thank donors for their support.

4. How to make the call?

Organize a group and have a thank-a-thon by having everyone in the group call donors. You can turn it into an event for staff or make it an individual assignment by having one person calling every so often.

Recommendation: Make thank-a-thon’s a regular event in your organization. Also give your callers a bit of training beforehand so that they may speak confidently when making the call.

5. What to say when you call?

Be brief and to the point, but above all do it with a smile. You do not want to sound robotic, you want to sound happy and genuinely thankful for their donation. Here is an example phone call: “Hi (donor’s name), this is (your name) from (beloved organization), and I am calling to say how appreciative we are for you recent gift. Your support means so much to us! Thank you!”

Recommendation: In the situation where your donor does not answer their phone, leave a message and try calling one more time within the next 48 hours of the first phone call. Donors appreciate you reaching out to them.

6. What do you do after the call?

After calling and thanking your donor, keep track of who you talked to and make a record of your conversation, or the message you left, and a few things you talked about. This will help your organization become more donor-centered because you will have a database to refer too when speaking with these donors again. Furthermore, this will allow you to be intentional and build relationships with donors.

Recommendation: While you have your donor on the phone ask them a few questions about what made them decide to donate and record it in your database. There is no better place to find this kind of information other than speaking directly with the donor.


Claire’s six steps are a nonprofits best friend, if they want to retain donors and build relationships.


About the writer: Samantha Tokarczyk is a senior at the University of Iowa studying Ethics and Public Policy with a certificate in Fundraising and Philanthropy Communications. She intends to continue working with animal welfare nonprofits, as well as attend law school after graduation.


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