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An Attitude of Gratitude

Is it Time to Update Your Donor Thank You Letter?

It’s October, which means the leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping, and fundraisers like us are elbows-deep in our year-end campaigns!

It’s the busiest – and most wonderful – time of the year for giving.

You’ve shared a moving story that illustrates the impact a donor can have when they give to your organization. You’ve painstakingly segmented your list of supporters and personalized their asks based on previous giving history. You’ve thoughtfully integrated your year-end appeal into a multi-channel campaign. But have you also updated your thank you letter?

If not, consider this a reminder to carve out 1 hour for a quick gratitude refresh in the next few weeks!

Thank you letters are a crucial part of every campaign (whether they’re sent by mail or email). Here are some guidelines to consider when you’re updating your donor thank you content:

Make it Warm

Tax receipts are a legal requirement, but cold and impersonal letters accompanying them aren’t! Sounding like a human and not a robot when you warmly thank them for the difference they made will set your letter apart from the rest. And please eliminate any sentence that contains “On behalf of the Board of Directors of …”!

Make it Personal

Use their name (and double check the spelling). Something in the story you shared inspired them to give, so be sure to include details from the ask in your thank you – to demonstrate their impact AND show that their gift is being used the way you said it would be. Your thank you letter should make them relive that warm glow they felt when they gave, and reaffirm that giving to your cause was a great decision!

Make it Timely

Getting a personalized thank you into the hands and hearts of your donors as quickly as possible should be the top priority (assuming you want to improve your donor retention and upgrade metrics). If thank you letters are sitting on someone’s desk for a few weeks waiting to be signed by your Board Chair or senior leadership, it’s time to reassess and streamline that process so that donors are being thanked in a matter of days, not weeks.

Make it the Beginning, Not the End

The thank you letter isn’t the last thing to check off on your appeal to-do list. Think of it as the first of many exchanges you’re having with your donor in an ongoing conversation. So make sure to let them know you’d like to hear from them, and include a specific person’s name, email and phone they can contact if they have any questions. Let them know you’ll be sharing updates about what their gift made possible in a donor newsletter or gratitude report.

Make it a True Thank You

Finally, make sure you DON’T ASK FOR ANOTHER GIFT in your thank you letter. This practice of “thasking” might bump your revenue in the short term, but over time will wear away at your donor retention and good feelings.

Thank you letters and other donor stewardship activities are often moved to the bottom of a busy fundraiser’s list. But investing even 1 hour in refreshing your gratitude content at this time of year can make a big difference in your long-term fundraising results.

What else do you include in a great donor thank you letter? Please share your thoughts and comments with us on Twitter @getsomebroccoli.

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Holly H. Paulin, CFRE and Brock Warner CFRE are the co-founders of Broccoli, and have over 30 years combined experience helping nonprofit fundraisers and charities do more. 

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