The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.

—William Blake

Thanksgiving is an amazing time for family, community, football, shopping, and, of course, philanthropy. Your annual giving and marketing colleagues are no doubt working hard, hoping to hit it out of the park on Giving Tuesday. This week can also be an important week for major giving professionals; it is the perfect time to reach out to your existing major donors and let them know how grateful you are for your relationship with them.

If your institution is doing all the right things, then your donors are probably already planning to give something on Giving Tuesday, or maybe they will see a social media post or get a postcard in the mail that prompts them to do so. But by reaching out and showing your gratitude at this time of year, you may inspire something bigger—perhaps not this week, this month, or even this year, but this touchpoint can be a memorable and meaningful part of your stewardship with them.

Consistently and authentically engaging your donors to show gratitude is not only the right thing to do, it is critical to long-term success in major giving. During the numerous interviews we conduct, we hear amazing stories all of the time of what happens when stewardship is done well. Consider this story from a university coach who was part of a stewardship event:

It’s all about forming relationships. We were at a dinner with one of our largest donors. Someone talking about the basketball facilities and I made an off-hand comment, like, “Oh, I wish I could have this for my team.” The donor looked at me and said, “Done.” And that was the beginning of a relationship that was spectacular.

Invariably when we dig deeper behind these amazing gift stories, we find that the donors involved have been consistently and meaningfully thanked by both the institution and the people who directly feel the impact of the contribution. One of the best ways to provide that meaningful stewardship is with a hand-written thank-you.

One thing that has been extremely successful in our fundraising efforts is personalized or handwritten notes. … When a donor gets a handwritten note from a coach—that might also be signed by all the players—letting them know how much we appreciate their donation, that really has a huge impact on a donor.

Another important element of thanking donors is to describe specifically how their contribution is being used.

If you designate your dollars to women’s golf, I will tell you exactly where that money goes. I think it’s beneficial for the donor to know that they helped provide three Bushnell range finders for the team that we use on a daily basis or know that they outfitted the team with Footjoy shoes that we wear in practice and competition.

This holiday season, make sure you are a thankful receiver and do your part to not only thank your existing donors, but also thank your team and your colleagues for their efforts in making your institution a great place of which people are grateful to be a part.

Do you have an amazing stewardship story? What are some creative ways you have used in thanking donors and showing them the impact of their contributions? Share them with us on social media.