As is the case within any commercial program, it costs 20% more to find new donors than it does to retain an existing donor.

This is why the fundraising cycle, discussed in our last instalment, is so important to fundraising success.


Within fundraising circles, the power of thank you is often underestimated and too often, people forget to thank their donors for their donation.

There are some really compelling reasons to firstly, thank your donors, and secondly, provide ongoing communication with your donors:

  • Simply by thanking your donors, there is a 50% increase in the chances of that donor making another donation the next time you ask. A simple ‘Thank you for your donation’ note, or phone call to show them how much their donation means to your organisation could make the difference in growing your program next year.
  • Then, by providing ongoing communication and reporting the outcomes and impacts of that donors contribution, their donation the following year has been shown to increase by up to 40%. This is because these people will now trust you and feel a sense of pride and ownership over the outcomes that they are helping to achieve.


The 1-in-6 rule is a simple formula that I have followed throughout my career to guide a donor engagement plan, promoting more communication with donors than simply just speaking to them to ask for money.

What is the 1-in-6 rule?

The 1-in-6 rule is that for every time you ask someone for money, you need to have 5 other points of contact with that person.

Donor engagement process


















To put this into practical application, if you wanted to ask your donors for an annual donation you might follow a process like this:

Month 0 – Initial Story Telling & Ask

This is when you tell your story, ask donors for a donation and receive that donation from your donor.

Month 1- Thanking Donors

Make sure you thank your donor for their donation. Within this communication be sure to include where their money will be spent and tell donors that their support will help you make a meaningful change to those who will benefit from your fundraising efforts.

Month 2/3- Update

Provide an update to your donors as to the progress of your program. If the funds have been able to be used, let the donors know how they have been used and if they have not, provide an update as to the plans to use them and how close you are to reaching your goal.

Month 6- Impact

Create some communications around the impact your program has achieved or is looking to achieve. Consider generating a video or case study focussing on a group of people or an individual who will benefit from funds raised, have them speaking about how the money has (or will) help them personally. Alternatively, this could focus on the impact on the future of the organisation via a message from the president/chair/CEO.

Month 8- Outcomes

Share the outcomes of your project, the number of people benefited, lives changed or impact measured. If the money is yet to be spent or fully raised, tailor some communications focussing on the outcomes and how donations received are vital to achieving them.

Month 10/11- Impact

Create another message outlining the impact, this time utilise the more emotive alternative to the impact communication sent in month 5. This will be your final recognition piece before you send your next version of the story/ask for the annual donation.

Month 0- Story/ Ask

The cycle starts again, with a renewed story and ask building on everything achieved in the year past.


If you’re wondering about simple and easy ways to thank your donors, emails and letters are definitely at the top of the list. If you are communicating the same thank you message to a group of donors, consider an email sending platform such as Campaign Monitor or Mail Chimp. These will allow you to apply your logo and brand to the email and include images, video and other content easily.

For those donors who have made larger donations, a phone call or face to face catch up is always a great way to let them know they are “extra” special to your organisation and will help keep them engaged.

So open those communication lines with your donors, and start by saying “thank you”.

Happy Fundraising

Mark Thompson Director of Fundraising

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