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Fall is here, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This is my favorite season for fundraising since this is when we get to thank our donors for all they do for our organizations with our annual Thankathon!

So, let’s start by defining “thankathon.” A thankathon is a series of communication that starts two weeks prior to Thanksgiving and ends on Thanksgiving day. It can also be done at different times of the year, but it always works best with Thanksgiving.

The timing for a thankathon series prior to Thanksgiving is perfect for any development strategy and fits nicely between solicitations. I like to solicit folks in October (be first in the mail) and again in December to those who haven’t given yet. So having a thankathon series in November works so well.

Essential Thankathon rules

A thankathon isn’t only successful because of it’s timing, it also works when you following these essential rules:

Execute via email and social media

It is ideal for it to be an emailed series that’s mirrored on social media.

To enhance this plan, consider doing thankathon calls. This is where you call and just “thank” donors for their past support and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

Introduce the series

Let people know that this is a thankathon series where the organization will simply thank donors/families/alumni, etc. for their support.

Let people know what and how often to expect it

Tell folks what to expect. No one wants to all of a sudden receive numerous emails and not know when they will end. All it takes is to say in the opening email how often they will receive emails and when it will end. I promise you that people will not be upset by the number of  emails if they know what to expect.

Use a different signer

This series is supposed to provide a genuine, heartfelt thank you to your donors so try to get as close to the mission as you can and use someone who is a different signer than your typical signer.

Don’t use jargon

If an eight-year-old can not understand it, then it’s too complex. Have someone else read it who isn’t familiar with your organization and ask them about specific words that you aren’t sure they might know how your organization defines it.

Include information you can not find on a website

This is a chance for you to give people something specially crafted for them in this moment. Don’t short-change them with a paragraph that could easily be found on your website.

Utilize video

Emails with videos are so powerful and have been proven to be viewed more often than other emails and have a higher click-through conversion rate.

Draw from your data

Choose themes that have proven to work. Do your donors like to hear about a specific program? If so, use this to your benefit in this series and save the new programs and funding opportunity information for another time.

Make it a two-way conversation for donors

Opportunities where you can create a two-way conversation are the best ways to engage your constituency base. During the process you end up learning things about your constituents you might not otherwise know.

Throw marketing guidelines out the window ( least for a  moment)

Yep, I said it. This is supposed to look and feel heartfelt and genuine as well as stand out from the rest of the marketing pieces. Use an email header, colors, and photos that are unexpected and unique for the theme of the series.

Final thoughts

This approach has helped me garner responses from hundreds of people and has been the most popular email series/communication piece I’ve introduced to organizations. My work has been quoted back to me in interviews and at donor appreciation events – what this series produces is truly remarkable and memorable!

About the author

This is a guest article from our friend Katie Roth Mylenbusch. She’s a fundraising consultant and is the mind behind KRM Fundraising Solutions. She’s an expert in many disciplines, including strategic planning, major gifts fundraising, capital campaigns, and more. You might remember her from our Chicago Client Workshop — she’s a ton of fun! If you want more content from Katie, keep an eye on her 

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