How to Host a Thank-a-Thon to Express Your Gratitude to Donors

Solicitation mailings, emails, and social media posts have become so common that donors often ignore them. They feel like they’re banks, only being contacted when organizations need money. Hence, many don’t show a lot of interest in connecting with a new nonprofit (or the one they donated to in the past) and knowing more about…

7 minutes read
How to Host a Thank-a-Thon to Express Your Gratitude to Donors

Solicitation mailings, emails, and social media posts have become so common that donors often ignore them. They feel like they’re banks, only being contacted when organizations need money. Hence, many don’t show a lot of interest in connecting with a new nonprofit (or the one they donated to in the past) and knowing more about them. Sadly, they don’t even expect a heartfelt thank you call with no ulterior motive.

A thank-a-thon is essential to gain (or regain) your donors’ trust and sometimes the only chance for you to retain them. Nonprofits may be surprised by what can come from these calls. The best part is that they cost the organizations nothing. Saying thank you can impact your bottom line more than you think.

This article will help you plan a thank-a-thon and create a culture of gratitude that will have an effect for years to come.

  1. What is a Thank-a-Thon?
  2. Why Should Nonprofits Host a Thank-a-Thon?
  3. 7 Steps to Running a Successful Thank-a-Thon

What is a Thank-a-Thon?

Have you ever called donors just to say thank you? The concept is obvious. Nonprofits can thank donors any way they choose. Some may hold events, others send emails, but traditional thank-a-thons are phone campaigns. Thank-a-thons are different from other phone campaigns because the nonprofit does not ask for anything, but that doesn’t mean organizations won’t benefit.

Other than providing good feelings for both the individual performing the call and the one receiving it, there are several ways a thank-a-thon can help a nonprofit.

A few of these benefits are mentioned below.

Why Should Nonprofits Host a Thank-a-Thon?

1. Regaining lost donors

Lost donors are one of the most significant problems in nonprofit fundraising. These are supporters who were interested once, but because of something you did or other unforeseen circumstances have stopped giving. You can run LYBUNT and SYBUNT reports to find out donors whom you lost in the past couple of years.

The next step would be to include a thank-a-thon in your fundraising strategy. It will let all donors know their gifts are appreciated and may even convince a few to return.

2. Receiving donations without an ask

You should not expect donors to give after receiving a thank you call, but there are enough real-life examples to keep it in the back of your mind. People love being appreciated. They’ve given in the past and why wouldn’t they donate again to an organization they feel a solid connection with?

3. Strengthening relationships with existing donors

Your existing donor relationships should not be ignored. Just because they’ve given more than once or they give regularly or they’ve turned into members doesn’t mean you will never lose them. Keep them happy by thanking them from time to time. A thank-a-thon is the ideal way to make this happen and show them that they’re on your mind at all times.

4. Creating a powerful donor database

A donor database is the most critical tool a nonprofit has. A thank-a-thon allows you to correct any mistakes with your donor database, including names, phone numbers, emails, and the number of years they’ve donated or volunteered. It also allows you to add personal notes on each donor that comes from these one-on-one conversations.

Donorbox Donor Management allows you to add communication notes, select the type of communication (inbound, outbound, or internal notes), and also select the channel (Facebook, SMS, meeting, etc.). This makes your donor management and communications more effective. Even when there’s a change in your staff, this data will help the new member easily connect with existing donors.


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7 Simple Steps to Running a Successful Thank-a-Thon

1. Decide who to involve

You must first realize that thank-a-thons are not a job for one person. Staff and volunteers must participate in this activity. The Executive Director or development staff will create a list of donors to call and provide any information to help the caller. Individuals who make the call should have a strong phone presence and knowledge about the organization. Board members are an excellent option for these calls.

2. Make a list of who to call

Deciding who to call depends on when and how often you’ll hold these campaigns. There are conflicting ideas on when to hold this type of campaign.

Some will run their thank-a-thons on one or a series of days when there are no other fundraisers. Other organizations have chosen to add a thank-a-thon to their end-of-year campaigns two weeks before Thanksgiving. This season is already a time of gratitude, so the campaign fits perfectly.

Finally, some nonprofits hold a thank-a-thon after every event and make it a habit for staff, board members, and volunteers to call donors personally and give thanks.

Donorbox helps nonprofits create this list very quickly and easily. Our donor management system will let you apply quick filters to your donor list and find out donors for a specific campaign, membership program, or event. You can then check what amount they donated, their payment mode, notes, communication history, and more.


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If your nonprofit has a thank-a-thon once a year, you may want to call all donors, sponsors, and vendors. If you choose to hold these campaigns after each event and drive, your list will be shorter and may provide a chance to collect more details from new and existing donors.

The Dale House Project did a few rounds of a thank-a-thon on their Facebook account. They thanked all their donors and sponsors and volunteers in separate posts with relevant photos and videos. Check out their Facebook page posts on the thank-a-thon (a glimpse shared below) to draw inspiration for a unique and simpler thank-a-thon idea.

thank a thon

3. Create a script

Before your staff and volunteers make these calls, it’s best to create a basic script for them to follow. Your scripts should include a thank you and get specific about how the donor has helped the organization. At the end of the call, don’t forget to wish them a wonderful evening.

We’ve included a sample script below to provide inspiration.

Hello (Donor Name), do you have a few minutes?

My name is (Volunteer’s Name), and I’m a (how you’re involved) with (Nonprofit Name) and wanted to thank you for your gift of (donation amount) during our (event name).

Thanks to you we could serve meals to 100 less privileged kids at the event and give them free educational supplies. (Explanation of how their gift helps the nonprofit).

We’d love to hear if you have any questions or suggestions for our upcoming events or the organization on the whole. (Making it a two-way conversation)

Thank you again, and I hope to see you soon. Have a lovely night!

Personalizing the script for each donor would help gain their attention and make the call more engaging. The best way to do this is to have each caller do thorough research on the donor to be called. They should use your donor management system to learn about the individual, anything specific they mentioned about your nonprofit, what they liked about the event, what they didn’t, any suggested improvements, etc. This will help your staff answer any questions and reply in the most effective manner possible.

4. Determine the where and when

Most people are home and available to talk between 6 to 8:30 pm. Remember, this is during dinner for many families, so it’s vital you keep the call short and sweet.

Nonprofits can provide scripts to their volunteers, do a brief meeting on how to go about these calls, and ask them to call when they’re home. Alternatively (often more effective), you can throw a small party for volunteers and provide pizza and drinks while they make the calls. This way, everyone will be in the same room to encourage each other to make the best calls while also finding it fun and entertaining.

5. Callers add important notes to your database

Thank-a-thon calls should be short, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the donors’ responses. You’re not only thanking them for their money but also their involvement.

Sometimes a donor may suggest changes to the organization, your fundraising campaigns, or events. Your callers must listen and show them you want to hear their ideas. At the same time, they must add important notes to the donor records on your donor database.

This initiative is solely for the donors, hence listening is the key to their hearts.

6. Follow up with those you couldn’t reach

Finally, it’s critical you don’t miss anyone. If someone doesn’t answer the call, leave a message, and have your board or staff call later. Those you fail to reach after everything should receive an email or a mailed card with a personalized message.

7. Finally, create a culture of gratitude

A thank-a-thon can be a one-time event, but it has a greater effect when you create a culture of gratitude for your whole organization. Culture significantly impacts donors as well as the volunteers, staff, and board members.

As part of your thank-a-thon, you can hold a party to thank all your team members and share your appreciation for everyone who helped you make it happen. If a party isn’t possible, nonprofits can also create video emails or post on social media to say thank you to acknowledge their volunteers and staff’s hard work.

Final Thoughts

Making your donors happy through effective communications and thank-yous is all about choosing the right engagement tools and strategies. This Donorbox video here will help you quickly learn the art of strengthening donor relationships.

While thanking your donors is important, making it easy and quick for them to give is even more crucial. Donorbox is an online fundraising tool that is simple for you as well as your donors. They get a plethora of payment options including digital wallets like Apple Pay, Venmo, Google Pay, PayPal, and other options like Stripe, ACH bank transfer, Direct Debit, etc. Donorbox UltraSwift™ Pay is specifically designed to make giving a breeze for your donors by including digital wallets and eliminating the need for them to enter personal details.

Check out Donorbox’s powerful and simple features such as Recurring Donations, customizable Fundraising Pages, Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer, Memberships, Events, QuickDonate, Donor Management, and more on the website here. Donorbox Premium is another great opportunity for you to break through the donation ceiling with expert help from our fundraising coaches, a dedicated account ambassador, tech support, and premium tools. Pricing is personalized for each nonprofit. Book a demo today!

Want to find out more ways to manage, acquire, engage, and retain donors? Check out Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. You’ll get plenty of nonprofit articles, free templates, and samples to grow your organization. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a list of our best resources (blogs, webinars, podcast episodes, feature updates, and more) in your inbox every month.

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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