I often ask organizations whether they have a stewardship process or a donation receipt procedure.

There’s a big difference. Of course we must acknowledge the contributions of our supporters. We must send a gift receipt. We must say thank you. If you aren’t doing those things, you aren’t even in the game. Those basic practices are like your ante that allow you to sit at the table. Your ace — what allows you to win the game — is actually stewarding the gifts of your donors and telling them how their support is making a difference.

And it comes from the heart.

Thanksgiving Week is one of my favorite weeks each year. On Monday I start with a list of about 50 of my most important donors and I start making calls. I’m not calling to thank the donors for a specific gift. Sure, it’s fun to call a donor a few days after a gift has been received and to thank the donor for that specific gift. But that’s not what I am talking about here. I’m talking about making calls to thank the donor for their support in general and for standing with us to help us accomplish our mission.

Here’s how I start my calls:

Mrs. Roberts, it’s Clark Vandeventer from the Important Cause Foundation. Hey, it’s Thanksgiving Week, and, well, at this time of year, I’m thinking about the people in my life who I’m thankful for. I just wanted to call and say thanks for all you do to help us. We couldn’t do what we do without you. I just want you to know that we appreciate you and all you do.

These calls are magical. At the end of my day at work, I go home feeling great. It’s one of my best weeks every year.

I love the donors I get to work with. I really do. They’re great people and they give sacrificially to be a part of something bigger than themselves. I began making these calls, and still make them, because I genuinely am thankful for these wonderful people. But let me tell you what happens after you make these calls:

People give.

People give more.

People give an additional gift.

Good fundraising starts with the heart.

Say thank you, and mean it.

– Clark