Five Maples’ Fundraising Blog

Wish your first-time donor renewal rates were higher? Part 2: Pick up the phone

In the first post of this series, I shared a strategy for sending out an effective thank you letter. Too many organizations stop there. Remember, I spoke of your thank you letter as the first in a series of thank yous, plural.

So, the thank you letter is in the mail. What next? Pick up the phone.

Thank you telephone calls are proven to increase donor retention rates.

Thank you calls: Who? What? When? How?

Who makes the calls? Perhaps a board member, or staff member. Perhaps a volunteer or even a beneficiary of your organization’s work. It will be different for every organization. The only key is to tap someone who is comfortable on the telephone—you don’t want this to sound like a robo-call. This is a genuine and heartfelt thank you.

What are you going to say? We’re all weary of unwanted intrusions and solicitations via telephone. Reassure your donor: “This is not a solicitation. I’m just calling to say ‘Thank you!’” Some call recipients will be shocked. No one calls to say thank you.

Working from a prepared script is imperative. Use the sample script as a guide and adapt it for messages that go to voicemail.


When are you going to call? Call within a few days—maybe a week—of receiving a donor’s gift. More than a few weeks out and you risk it feeling like a follow-up solicitation no matter what you say.

How? Be brief. This call should be a blessing to the recipient, not a burden. Be sensitive. You might even ask, “I’m only going to take a moment. Is this a good time?” And record results. If the donor offers you feedback, take notes and share with your team.

Improved donor retention is right around the corner for your organization.

Stop in again. Still to come in this series, more thoughts on communicating appreciation and successful methods of connecting your donors to the good work they’re helping accomplish.

This post was adapted from the Five Maples resource A How to Guide for Keeping First Time Donors.

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