As the year-end is nearing, it is time to think about wrapping up the year 2020. Time to think of the achievements you have had this year. And to plan for building on these in the next year. Time to think of all the people who helped you make the most of this year. And to appreciate them for that. It is, in short, a good time for Thank Yous.

It isn’t about efficiency…

Saying thank you isn’t hard, of course. Anyone can do it and you do not need special training for it. Still, I want to share some tips in this post. Because I noticed that when people feel they need to say thank you in relation to their nonprofit work they focus on acting business-like and on getting it done efficiently. This often results in standardized printed letters with photocopied signatures. Or even cards without personal header or signature.

…it is all about relationships

This is forgetting the point that saying thank you is a highly personal business. Even if you want to do this professionally, as your organization. A thank you is very much part of the relationship between you and the person you want to thank. Whether that is a private individual donor, an institutional donor, a company that supported you or your valued staff. Getting it right can help you solidify that relationship. While getting it wrong can, indeed, help you destroy it very easily and swiftly.

Take all the time you need

My main tip is to focus on personalizing your Thank Yous as much as possible. This takes time and effort. So my first tip is to get started on this as soon as you can and to plan time slots for this in your calendar from now until mid-December, if you haven’t already.

My tips

Here are a few other tips for you:

  • Have your nonprofit design its own cards, showing something of your work or of the community you serve that is relevant to the person receiving the card (this may mean you need to make more than one design!)
  • Where possible, print these cards and send them by snail mail instead of as part of an e-mail
  • Write a personal message on the inside of the card, that is: a message that is personal to the receiver
  • At least write start and end by hand

Plan carefully

As you can imagine, designing possibly multiple cards and writing personal messages that are relevant to the receiver require careful thinking and planning. Whom are you going to send thank you messages to? What impact have they had on your organization? What images are relevant to that impact? How best to put this in words? Who on your team is best placed to write and sign this message? How much time is going to be needed to do this?

Plan your timeline

Put all relevant information in a table or database and make a realistic timeline for getting this done, well ahead of time. Think about the timing, too. Is a merry Christmas message appropriate to the recipient? Is a New Year message more suitable? Or are they celebrating neither Christmas nor New Year and do you need to find another angle for your message? Or another timing altogether?

Don’t forget, your thank you is meant to show the receiver of the message your appreciation, to make them feel seen. You are not truly honouring them if your message makes them feel disrespected in their religion, customs or lifestyle.


Looking back at the year and formulating the impact certain people have had, is a joyous activity. Make sure you have time to enjoy the memories, to savour them and to celebrate them. If you are able to truly enjoy this exercise, the readers of your messages will most certainly feel this. And feeling you had a part in something good that leads to happy memories is the best way of being thanked for your contribution.

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free Facebook group

You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.