Posts Tagged ‘donor recognition’

How to write a perfect donor thank you: a template and example

My favorite nonprofit, A Wider Circle, sent me a thank you letter this weekend. It started with the following quotation:

I truly appreciate everything you have given my family. The household items aside, it’s the hope, the faith, the trust, and the reassurance that kind, caring and loving people still do exist. I used to be the one that donated the clothes, the canned goods, and volunteered my time. But here I was having to rely on the same from others. It’s going to be a struggle for a while but we’re keeping our faith and staying strong.

It was from Raeleen, mother of two, whose home was fully furnished by A Wider Circle.

This has all the hallmarks of a wonderful acknowledgement: It’s heartfelt, it’s original, it’s emotional and it’s tangible. And better yet, it’s got the right messenger.

The inclusion of the words of someone helped by my donation is powerful, authentic and moving. Not to mention relatable. How many of us have had moments where we are reluctant to ask for help and understand the vulnerability that accepting it entails? I not only understand the difference I made, I think I understand something of the person I helped.

I hope this inspires you, because there is no greater gift to donors than stories of how they helped.

And if you’re stuck, here’s my template for a great thank you.

Dear _________________ (use donors’ names, spelled correctly)

First: Don’t start with the typical, “Thank you for your donation!” Start with a vivid image or mini story of what the donor made possible, like the example in this post.

Second: Say thank you and give the donors credit for the impact of the donation and/or the specific program(s) supported.

Third: Express gratitude for the specific gift amount, noting the date and including any language on tax deductibility.

Fourth: Tell the donors when and how you’ll be in touch to let them know more about what their gifts are accomplishing. Include contact information–your email, phone and website–so you can stay in touch or reach out.

Closing: Thank the donors again and sign a real person’s name. If this is a mailed letter, include a P.S. with a nice added detail about a resource where they can find out more about the difference you are making because of their gift.

This article was originally posted at Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog on March 22, 2012.

See also:

Robin Hood Marketing

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Relationship Fundraising

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Would you pass or fail the thank-you letter experiment?

In this month’s book feature of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, I was surprised to see author Kivi Leroux Miller devote a chapter to thanking donors, especially since those of us in the sector know how important they are. After reading the opening paragraph called, “What I got when I gave experiment,” my surprise was quickly replaced by curiosity.

In 2008, Kivi made a donation to 16 different nonprofit organizations, 12 of which she had a giving history, and what she got after giving was as she puts it, “almost nothing.” Of the 12 national charities, only four or 33 percent acknowledged the gift in any way. Of the three regional charities, only one in three acknowledged the gift. Leroux Miller reports that these results are not unusual and other similar tests have shown that less than 50 percent of donors receive thank you letters. Leroux Miller did the test again with 10 national nonprofits when going to press and you can look at her results at www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog for the results.

Rather than risk a 65 percent attrition rate between the first and second gift (according to Penelope Burke of Donor Centered Fundraising ), apply Leroux Miller’s six steps to improving your thank-you process.

  1. Send thank you letters out within 48 hours of the gift
  2. Use a mail merge to personalize by name, gift amount and personal designation. It’s also nice to add a handwritten note if you can and tell stories about the people you serve.
  3. Use more creative openings besides the standard “On behalf of” or “Thank you for” and instead try starting with one of your stories.
  4. Explain how the gift will be used.
  5. Tell them what to expect next. What will they receive or what invitation might they look for in the mail, etc.
  6. Personalize from the sender. Use ink instead of digital printing for signatures. Add personal notes from volunteer leaders or board members. Phone calls are also a powerful follow up as well as a thank you from the person or people who benefit from the gift directly.

Here’s what Leroux Miller had to say when we asked her about thanking donors in our Page to Practice™ interview:

CausePlanet: You dedicate a chapter to the importance of thanking donors. Why do you think nonprofits fail in this area despite the fact that they know better?

Leroux Miller: It’s short-term, to-do list-driven thinking. It’s not that nonprofits are inherently rude, but they do use being busy as an excuse. And they pay for that in the long-term, when they don’t have as many donors who give the second or third gift. Thanking donors is essential to repeat giving, but building time into your schedule to do it right with timely thank-yous requires a longer-term perspective.

Learn more about Leroux Miller’s book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, or our Page to Practice book summary.

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