We live in a busy world with all the panoply of beeping, modern-day distractions vying for our divided attention. Still, donors want to be delighted and feel connected to the organizations they support.

How can nonprofits rectify these two competing realities?

You have to do the basics well before you can get fancy. That means prompt acknowledgement letters, hand-written notes for major gifts, and regular phone calls of gratitude to new donors. After that, have some fun with it using these three tips!

Get snappy.

A high-yield, low-cost way to delight your donors is to include them in your annual report. At HMC, we’re big advocates of making your annual report serve as a marketing and donor stewardship piece…not just a dry document full of numbers.

Hire a professional photographer to go the extra mile during events and capture fantastic photos of your donors supporting your mission. Then, include those photos in your annual report. Send a hard copy to each donor featured with a nice, handwritten note thanking them for their contributions during the year.

Alternately, you can ask your top donors, or even new donors that you’re seeking to move up the ladder of engagement, for quotes about why your organization is important to them. Feature these “pull quotes” in your annual report, and you’ll do double service by both proving your value to investors while also bringing your donors closer to your organization.

Channel your inner grandma.

Direct mail is not dead…but it is going through a mid-life crisis. Every year, more and more donors are making their charitable gifts online, which is making your customized response envelopes a thing of the past. However, mail is still a powerful tool in any communicator’s toolbox…if you use it to surprise and delight.

Know your major donors’ birthdays, and schedule a reminder to mail them a card at least a week prior to the date. But not just any card…make it memorable! At HMC, we’ve created tiny packets of paper confetti ($5-$10 per 1500 pieces) to include within a standard organizational card for our clients, and even got balloons custom-printed with a sweet message ($0.15 – $1.00 per balloon, depending on how many you order.) It’s a low-cost way to make someone’s day!

Other special days you can leverage:

  • the anniversary of someone’s first donation
  • your “friendaversary” i.e. the first time you met them for coffee/lunch
  • your organization’s founding date
  • national holidays that relate to your mission.

Get ready for your close-up.

Using video is one of the quickest ways to connect with donors. Well-crafted, professionally created explainer videos will captivate viewers and easily transform them into advocates. But these videos demand an investment of time and money.

What about a quick fix?

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms, and it allows you to upload 15-second clips and “tag” your friends and donors in them. We recently created a triptych of thank-you videos for our Kickstarter backers and received a great response. Total time spent? About 10 minutes per video.

Using your smartphone and readily available editing apps, you can also create quick “update” videos to embed into your newsletters. Have your Executive Director give donors a quick tour of your new office, show them a few letters you’ve received from grateful patients, or just share a quick success story and thank them for their support. Keep it under 30 seconds and people will be delighted to watch it.

One last thing…

I’ve always wanted to order customized flat highlighters to send to corporate volunteers that have the client’s logo and the text “Thanks for volunteering! You were the highlight of our day!” Alas, I’ve never gotten the opportunity. So one of you readers should go for it!

With the sun setting earlier and the wind getting chillier, now is the perfect time to bring a little sunshine into your donors’ days. With only a little extra effort, you can wow your supporters, and ensure that they will become long-term advocates for years to come.


Lansie Sylvia is a tornado of curls, sparkles, and big ideas. As Director of Engagement for Here’s My Chance, a creative agency that works exclusively with nonprofits and socially responsible businesses, she leads the agency’s external communication strategy and builds new community partnerships. She currently serves as HMC’s Project Director for Next Stop: Democracy!, a public art project to improve the voting experience in Philadelphia, funded by the Knight Foundation. Before receiving her M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, Lansie completed an AmeriCorps Year of Service in Providence, RI. Her go-to karaoke song is “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan. Connect with Lansie on Twitter or Instagram@fancylansie or via LinkedIn

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