How do you say thanks to donors?

Joshua Clay

We Internet users have a voracious appetite for online video. Video is increasing in nearly every digital channel, from email to web pages to social networks.

Done right, it drives clicks and conversions better than text alone. Marketers across the spectrum are planning to increase their use of videos to educate, service, and sell.

Yet, for small nonprofits, producing a worthwhile online video can seem daunting and unattainable. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. Keep it short and sincere and shareable and you have a chance of using video to recruit and mobilize advocates, volunteers, and donors.

For this post, I wanted to explore a very specific use of video that delights me – the post-donation thank you video. A few years ago, a fellow nonprofit colleague highlighted one such video on Sen. Al Franken’s fundraising confirmation page. I loved it. It was unexpected and brought a huge smile to my face. Years later that video sticks with me. (NOTE: I wish I could find it…if you can, post it in the comments!)

A few days ago I put out a call for these videos. I received some post-donation videos and thank you videos used at other times. So, the scope of this post expanded to 4 Smart Ways to Use Thank You Videos in Nonprofit Fundraising.

Let’s begin.


Face it – the donation confirmation page is typically a huge snoozer, with little more than a cursory “thank you for your donation” bit of text. Change that.

Consider this page an opportunity to retain that donor and secure your next gift. A simple, personal, short video thank you on this page can inspire donors to fall more deeply in love with you.

Here are two examples of confirmation page thank you videos:

Christian Friends of Israeli Communities 

From US Director Kimberly Troup:

When did you launch the video?
We launched it right before Thanksgiving 2015.

What resources did you dedicate to making this video possible, including planning, production, and tech?
One staff person who went to some of our projects and took the photographs of program recipients holding the thank you signs. We have a professional film company that we pay, who did the actual filming and the editing for us.

How much time did the initiative take, from thought to finish?
2-3 years. I had the initial thought at least 2 years (possibly 3) before I was able to convey the idea/concept to the higher ups who could get it done. Once we had the concept approved and started, it only took 2-3 weeks, for the pictures/filming/editing to be completed.

What advice would you offer other nonprofits that want to try this?
Do it! Video is a great way to share live from the field. Especially when your donors don’t have a lot of access to see what their donation is accomplishing.

Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua

From Development Director Emily Hewes:

When did you launch the video?
We initially launched the video after our End of Year campaign in 2015 and put it on our blog and I sent it to a few key supporters to thank them for their gifts. After that, we began using it as an opportunity to thank people after they give online gifts. So when someone makes a donation they are redirected to that page.

What resources did you dedicate to making this video possible, including planning, production, and tech?
I’m pretty sure that the person who made it used only a video camera on his cell phone, so super low tech!

How much time did the initiative take, from thought to finish?
I would say from start to finish this took probably no more than a few days.

Can you share results and/or feedback on the video?
We haven’t measured results from this video, mostly because it was just for thanking donors and was not part of a campaign where we were raising funds. When I did send it to a donor she said it brought tears to her eyes because it was meaningful to her. I think that, for me, is one of the best results we could have.

What advice would you offer other nonprofits that want to try this?
I would encourage other nonprofits to not be scared to use video as a tool to thank donors. It’s easy to think that you need lots of resources or tools to make a video, but this is a super simple video that allowed us to bridge a large distance between our donors and the organization (the org is based in Nicaragua and most of our donors are in the US). It really can be as simple as having staff say ‘thank-you!’


The donation confirmation email is another overlooked source for creative and sincere thanking. Your donors know it’s coming, but do they open it and LOVE it? Probably not. Here’s how you can change that.

Will Easton, Fundraising & Email Strategy Lead at Mozilla Foundation, sent me this brilliant confirmation email with a “Choose Your Own Thank You Adventure” with a Funny Thank You, Sincere Thank You and Cute Thank You.

Mozilla thank you email

Hey, even ONE thank you video like this would be a vast improvement for most confirmation emails.


Social networks like Facebook and Instagram offer a splendid opportunity to thank major donors or sponsors publicly and creatively.

As a volunteer for my local Rhinebeck Soccer League, I invited the teams to give thanks to their respective sponsors, and many of them choose video as their medium. I posted these thanks to Facebook and tagged the coaches, sponsors and sponsor businesses. All of them were submitted by volunteers (with varying levels of video skills). These posts were consistently the most popular posts and help RSL secure more sponsors year after year.

Beware, cuteness ensuing.


Come Thanksgiving, my feed will light up with thank you videos from nonprofits, warming donors up for big year-end asks. You want these videos to thank all kinds of supporters for all kinds of support, like this:

You can use this kind of video beyond December. Fellow do-gooder John Haydon fondly remembers this Charity:Water video from 2011:

While the production quality and scale may be beyond the reach of most small nonprofits, there are a lot of small lessons in this:

  • It’s a thank-a-thon. One day to shower donors with love.
  • In the videos, staff members thanked people who fundraised for Charity:Water with joy, sincerity, and simplicity (a white wall and a few props).
  • This “birthday” celebration wasn’t about the nonprofit. It wasn’t, “Yay US.” This was “Yay YOU” for bringing clean water to two million people.


Got a thank you video YOU love, any flavor? Share a link in the comments.

Published On: August 3, 2017|Categories: Fundraising, Video, Graphics, Photography and Other Visuals|