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Thanking Donors
Thanking Donors

By Toni Coleman , Precious Dorch-Robinson

University of Queensland donor appreciation video

Are You Still Mailing Form Letters?

Seven smart ways to say thank you

  1. Australian National University
    Stay fresh
    Student callers record and send thank you videos as soon as they get off the phone with a donor.
  2. Truman State University
    Don't neglect online donors
    After making a gift online, donors to the Missouri university land on a personalized thank you page that details what their gift will support and invites them to spread the news on social media.
  3. Assumption College
    Get a pinch hitter
    When the Massachusetts institution's advancement staff fell behind on handwriting thank you messages to select donors, they hired a freshman to write notes tailored to the donor type, for instance consecutive-year givers and first-time donors.
  4. University of Ottawa
    Stay gracious
    When alumni decline to give, student callers send an e-mail thanking them for taking the time to talk. The e-mail includes links to the Canadian institution's website and giving page if the donor has a change of heart.
  5. University of Rhode Island
    Bring balloons
    During the URI Foundation's Faculty and Staff Thank You Day, students hand-deliver thank you notes and balloons to faculty and staff donors.
  6. Brigham Young University
    Make time to rhyme
    In 2012, the Utah university emailed donors an audio poem, "Ode to a Donor," written and recited by a student.
  7. Harper College
    Share a happy ending
    Donors to the Illinois community college receive a postcard with commencement photos, noting how many scholarship students graduated-and that the mission of their gift has been achieved.

Gratitude with Attitude
Fun ways to say thanks that don't involve pen and paper

"The personal touch helps with gift fulfillment. We'll likely be sending every donor a personal video before too long—not just the phonathon donors. If someone responds to a web-based appeal, they're just as deserving of a personal video."
—Bob Burdenski, principal, Robert Burdenski Annual Giving

Thanks from the future
Thank you videos are ubiquitous. The University of Queensland's 2014 donor appreciation video stands out for explaining the impact of gifts, from how a donation founded the Australian university to how other gifts support athletic scholarships. The video is shot from the perspective of a future student, class of 2026. Cute kid. Contagious enthusiasm. Thumbs-up.

How sweet
Each Valentine's Day, the San Diego Zoo surprises 50 to 60 special donors with a dozen sugar cookies with zoo-themed love messages: Such a fox. Seal with a kiss. Ape over U. I ain't lion. "The oohs and aahs we get from people are remarkable," says Mark Stuart, president of the San Diego Zoo Global Foundation, noting that widows especially appreciate the treat on an often challenging holiday.

The face of a donor
As part of its Trojan warrior spirit campaign, Troy University in Alabama created an app that allows prospective and enrolled students and alumni to impose a warrior mask over half of their face. Now the app is a donor engagement tool. Troy gave a retiring donor and employee a photo of his half-masked face, which became a lasting memento.

Getting Personal on Social Media

In October 2015, McMaster University in Canada asked online donors for their Twitter and Instagram handles. The university then tagged donors in a personalized thank you post, which included the donor's yearbook photo or pictures of students benefiting from the gift.

(Return to opening page of "The World's Best Stewardship Ideas")

About the Authors Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman is the interim editor in chief of Currents.

Precious Dorch-Robinson

Precious Dorch-Robinson is a spring 2016 Currents editorial intern.




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Jul/Aug 2016 Digital Edition

In This Issue

The World's Best Stewardship Ideas

Thanking Donors Reporting Impact Cultivating New Gifts Recognizing Donors