How to Make an Effective Donor Thank You Call

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Congratulations on wrapping up last year! It was a challenging one, to be sure, and we hope your team was able to take a break. Now it’s time to get to work making thank you calls.

A well-executed thank you call does a lot more than thank the donor for a gift recently received. It offers the opportunity to connect one-on-one with donors, listen to their stories, and deepen your organization’s understanding of their motivation to give. Ultimately, the goal of the call is to determine whether the prospect has capacity and interest to qualify them for a future major gift.


During the call, you should attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Did I learn anything to suggest the prospect has high capacity?
  • Did I learn information about the strength of the prospect’s linkage to my organization?
  • Did I learn preliminary information about the prospect’s areas of interest and how they map to my organization’s goals and priorities?
  • Did the prospect demonstrate an inclination to support my organization at a major or leadership gift level in the near future (6-18 months) with the proper cultivation?


Begin the call by introducing yourself and your intention: “I’m reaching out to say thank you for your recent [$X] gift to the organization and to introduce myself. I’m also hoping to learn a bit more about your background and why it is you support our work. I would love to hear your thoughts if you have a few minutes to chat.”  

Acknowledge their gift and any pertinent information you have about their history before asking about their connection: “I see that you’ve been donating to our organization for X years now. What first inspired you to give?”

From there, ask about their interest in your programs: “Is there a specific area of our work that interests you most or that you’d like to learn more about?”

Use this opportunity to provide a brief overview of your programs for donors who may be unaware of the full scope of your work, or to provide an update on a program of particular interest to them. Make sure to touch on how their gift makes these programs possible and what the organization would be able to do with more such gifts.

Next, ask a question that will allow you to probe into their philanthropic priorities and seek their advice. Options include:

  • “Among your various philanthropic interests, where does this organization rank in terms of your financial support?” If you are not at the top, ask some questions to probe about the organizations that are.
  • “Relative to other organizations you support, how effectively does this organization ask for your support, acknowledge your gift(s), and steward you as a donor?”
  • How do you perceive our organization relative to others in our peer group or other organizations you support?”

Finally, identify a path to continued (and hopefully increased!) support, saying something like, “We want to make sure to exceed your expectations as a donor, so that we can continue to be on your list of philanthropic priorities. What would inspire you to keep giving, perhaps even at an increased level, in the future?”

If the conversation went well and they are interested in getting more involved, attempt to confirm a next step in cultivation efforts—maybe it’s an update on a program they care about or an event they might attend. Thank them for their time and clarify any next steps, including how and when you will relay information that they requested. 


Of course, it’s important to include your call report in the donor’s record in your database, as well as a reminder for the next action step. You’ll also want to update their prospect status to reflect if they’ve been qualified and moved into cultivation and add yourself as a relationship manager if the prospect is not already in your portfolio. Beam Insights users will see those updates in the tool with the next data import.

Effective thank you calls are a great way to steward your donors while also putting them on a path to another gift. Importantly, board and development committee members can also take part in these calls using the same approach outlined here. Together, you can ensure a strong start to 2021!


Katelyn Martin

Katelyn Martin is a Senior Consultant at Campbell & Company, with a primary focus in arts & culture philanthropy. She works to identify opportunities to leverage strategic use of data and communications.