Thank you letters have long been seen by many fundraisers as “gottados” – one of those things you just “gotta do” to get to the real work of fundraising, like writing newsletters and having lunches with major donors at great restaurants downtown.
Many development pros are starting to wake up the fact that thank you letters can be so much more than one-off “gottados.” Thank you letters are the start of the stewardship process, the linchpin of your donor recognition efforts, and the beginning of your work to secure another, larger gift from your donors.
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Thank You Letters are Critical
Did you know that thank you letters have a real impact on your non-profit’s bottom line? It’s true. If your organization has been using the same stale thank you letter (which for many fundraisers also doubles as a donation receipt) for the past ten years, now is the right time to change course.
Penelope Burk, who has done tons of research into the impact of thank you letters on donors and organizations, has found that there are two critical components to great thank you letters:
- The timing of the letter (it has to be sent out immediately after the donation is received in order to achieve maximum impact), and
- The content of the letter (it has to be a great letter – it can be based off of a template, but you have to personalize it as best you can)
Donors who receive prompt, heartfelt thank you letters are far more likely to give again, and will give more often over their relationship with your non-profit. If you want to learn more about how to write really compelling thank you letters, check out How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter by Gail Perry and How to Write a Better Donation Thank You Letter by Lisa Sargent.
The Sample Letter
Ok, now that you know why great thank you letters are so important, my suggestion is that you and your team sit down this week to review your thank you letters and rewrite or edit them to be more compelling, more emotional, and more heartfelt.
If you’re wondering how to do that, here’s a sample. This is a thank you letter that one of my client organizations uses to recognize their low-dollar and mid-level donations (major donors get a personal, hand-written note from the Executive Director). The name of the organization has been changed to protect confidentiality:
You made my day!
As I sat here this morning opening the mail, I came across your generous donation. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support for our lifesaving work with Toledo’s most vulnerable children.
Here at Better Tomorrow, our goal is to make sure that no child in our area ever goes to bed hungry. While we served over 150,000 hot meals to children ages 2-18 in 2014 the sad fact is that over 5,000 kids in our area still went to bed hungry most nights last year.
Your generous donation of $200 will go a long way to helping us end child hunger in Toledo and beyond. In fact, with your gift, we will be able to provide over 85 hot meals to undernourished children in 2015.
Thank you! You have made a real difference in the lives of the kids we serve. Thanks to you, 85 children will go to bed full, well-nourished, and better off than the night before.
Jim, thank you once again for your donation. It means the world to us!
Director of Development