The 1st thing your non-profit must do in 2018

It’s the dawning of 2018, and between strategic planning for the new year, developing your 2017 annual report, and publishing your organizations top 10 lists for last year, your plate is already overflowing.

But it’s your job to make your donors feel seen, known and appreciated!

So before you get started on anything else, you must take a moment to acknowledge everyone who contributed to your year-end campaign. Heck, while you’re at it, you might as well thank everyone who contributed to your organization in 2017…after all, we know we can never thank donors enough.


You may have already sent a quick “thank you” email to each and every donor who contributed to your organization. But that’s not enough. If you care at all about improving donor retention rates, YOU MUST thank them again.

Statistics show that for every 100 donors in a given year, only 46 will give again. That means unless you’re engaging with new donors in a meaningful way, you could lose over half of them after their first contribution. (Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report.)

So how do you make your big THANK YOU message meaningful? Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to establishing lasting relationships:

  1. Be personal, warm, and genuine.
  2. Tell me how my donation is going to make a difference.
  3. Share an easy to remember, repeatable story (and photo or video) about one (or some) of your organization’s beneficiaries.
  4. Let me know you couldn’t have done it without my support.
  5. Make sure my thank you note comes from the top…ideally your executive director.

Here’s one last tip. Rather than writing a thank you note, make it more memorable by creating a thank-you video. Just think about how much more engaging a video with real people, sights and sounds is than a static photo or words alone.

These days, you don’t need to hire professionals or rent expensive equipment to make a video. All you need are these three things: 1) a decent smart phone, 2) a lapel microphone or captions, and 3) B-roll (or video footage) of your beneficiaries or clients.

The 5 guidelines above still apply. Simply plug them into the video and do your best to keep it to under 1 minute. For maximum exposure, embed your video in an email blast, and post it on your Web site along with all your social media channels.

Here are a few of my favorite thank you videos to help get you started:

Helping RhinosScreen Shot 2018-01-02 at 3.30.47 PM.png

Who knew Rhinos were so adorable? This touching video comes from Helping Rhinos, an NGO focused on ensuring the survival of the endangered rhino in Africa. This video is so endearing, I didn’t even know I liked rhinos until I watched it. I’ll definitely be making room in my philanthropic budget for this organization this year.

Samaritan’s Purse

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 3.35.33 PM.png

Straight from Franklin Graham, the President and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, this heartfelt video appreciates donors while giving us a glimpse into the many ways the funds raised are improving the lives of those they serve. Stick around and you’ll immediately be shown another thank you video narrated by one of the children impacted by their programs.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 3.38.45 PM.png

This organization made their clients, all children, the stars of their video by having them thank donors for exhibits that enable them to share unique educational experiences.

How ever you create your thank you message, be sure to weave it into the plan I introduced a few weeks ago on “How to Convert New Donors into Monthly Donors in 4 Short Emails” ( If you’re following that plan, this message would probably serve best as your 1st or 2nd follow-up email.

We’d love to see what you come up with. Please share your thank-you videos with us by posting them with the hashtag: #smackdab. Or, send your link to me via email at

Happy new year! Thank you for your continued support. You inspire me daily to keep writing and supporting organizations working tirelessly to change the world. May you be blessed in 2018 with boundless energy, endless creativity, and crazy passion for the work you do and the people/cause you serve.

With deepest gratitude,

Sarah Lambie

3 thoughts on “The 1st thing your non-profit must do in 2018

  1. Your tips would be helpful in raising funds and support from the public as well as the corporates.


    1. Thank you. Maybe I’ll repprpuse it for corporates. Good idea.


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