Today, we are wrapping up our three part series on annual appeal letters. Saying thank you is one of the most important parts of obtaining and retaining donors; however, many organizations do not effectively say thank you OR even worse yet, forget or say thanks at all. Below are some tips to ensure that when you say thank you to your donors your organization will be remembered….for the right reasons.
Before you begin writing thank you letters, spend some time thinking about the letter and who it will be going to.
- What has the donor’s contribution enabled the organization to do?
- Is it the first time the donor has contributed, or is it a repeat donor?
- Will the organization use a tiered acknowledgement system?
- Who will sign the letters?
As you begin thinking about the responses to the questions above, it is also a good idea to develop a timeline for saying “thanks.” It should be common sense to thank donors quickly; however, many donors report not receiving any acknowledgement of their donation for months. This is unacceptable, no matter the size of the gift, all donors deserve the respect of a “thank you” within seven days of receipt of the donation. As a matter of fact, best practices in the fundraising field tell us that nonprofits should be sending out thank you letters within two days of receiving the donation.
Now that you have determined the answers to the above questions, it is time to sit down and write the letter. Begin by personalizing the letter, since the person has made a donation, you know their name…never write a letter to “Dear Friend.”
Next, your opening sentence needs to connect with the donor. This is your chance to let donors know how much you appreciate them. Here is a perfect spot to include a brief story about someone who benefits from the services of your organization. Use phrases such as, “your donation is making a difference,” “because of you we have been able to…”, etc.
If the donor is making the gift in response to your annual appeal or another campaign, make mention of it. This is another way of letting the donor know that their letter is personalized and not a letter you are sending to everyone. This section of the letter may also include a statement that the IRS requires about the deductibility of the donation; however, it is not enough to send a letter that only has the IRS statement and an amount. Doing so is not saying thank you; it is just complying with the law.
Let donors know how you will be using the funds that they have contributed and remember to say thank you once again. Conclude the letter by inviting the donor to stay in touch, perhaps by connecting on social media or signing up to receive your newsletter on your website.
Conclude your letter with a signature….a live signature, not one that has been computer generated.
Be very careful about one HUGE mistake that many organizations make: Do NOT use the thank you letter as a platform to request another donation. The thank you letter should only be used to say thank you and to let your donors know that you appreciate them.