Appeals and formal acknowledgements don’t have to be your only contact with donors. Sometimes, stewarding a donor is the best way to get them in the mood to give again is to.

Here are a few quick, cheap, easy and fun ideas to delight your donors. Stewardship like this might even help seal the deal for those who have received a formal appeal, but not yet made a gift.

1. Call donors who gave for the first time last year — just to say thanks.

Phone calls are just wonderful. In today’s electronic world, nothing beats a personal touch.

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea, consider calling just first-year donors. Why? According to Tom Ahern, first-time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4x more likely to give a second gift. And you want that second gift, since donor retention rates skyrocket from 22.9% to 60.8%. The Agitator has reported that a three-minute thank-you call will boost first-year retention by 30%.

Not only can you thank people personally, but you can use the opportunity to get to know them better. Ask them questions, get feedback

Be sure to check your donor’s communication preference before dialing (don’t call donors who explicitly stated they don’t want to be called). Voicemails are just as good!

2. Send an anniversary message to loyal donors.

If you have donors who hit major giving milestones this year (5, 10, 25 years, etc.), send them a message reminding them how long they’ve been giving and how much their support means to you.

You can do this by mail, phone, email or social media (try a LinkedIn message from a board member).

3. Send out a brief impact update by email.

Letting donors know exactly how their dollars are being used builds trust in your organization, especially if you have good news to share. Sharing campaign or project progress is a great reason to get in touch.


Lots of donors get emails that say “We just hit $50k of our $100k goal!” (booooring) but how many get “The shipment of medical supplies that your donation went towards just reached its destination!”

4. Make a quick thank you video.

Video is a great way to thank donors. It stands out instantly from the status quo of receipts, letters and emails.

The best part about video today is that you don’t need to hire a professional crew or spend hours creating it yourself.

Check out how Diabetes UK makes use of a smart phone and Vine for a personal thank you:

You can also use video more broadly. Check out how OneJustice makes an end-of-year thank you to all of their supporters

5. Share a short success story.

You don’t have to wait until your annual report to share stories from those who have benefited from your services (and, by extension, your donor’s generosity).

Social media is a great place to share frequent micro-stories of success. Check out this creative use of Instagram from The Innocence Project:


Video, of course, works well here too. This video from Brittany’s Hope Foundation is just perfect:

Keep your eyes peeled for moments like these. Even the smallest organization has numerous stories to tell!

6. Profile a staff member or dedicated volunteer.

Speaking of storytelling, why not tell the world more about the people who support you? It doesn’t always have to be about what your organization is doing.

VOKRA (the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association) frequently profiles friends of their organization on Facebook.


Not only is the content informative and entertaining to those who see it, but it also makes the person highlighted feel appreciated. Bonus points!

Be sure to get permission before posting anything publicly!

Filling in your communications calendar with numerous stewardship pieces will keep your organization (and its good work) top of mind, priming the pump for your big appeals.

What do you do to keep a smile on your donor’s faces? Let me know in the comments below!