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Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices

Posted by Dodd Caldwell Oct 22, 2013

The Importance of a Thank You Letter for Donations


Were gaining more and more nonprofit customers at MoonClerk. If youre one of them (or even if youre not), we want to start helping you learn more about getting the most out of your relationships with your donors, some of whom may come from MoonClerk. Sending a thank you letter for donations is a big part of that. We know that drafting thank you letters and emails may seem daunting, so were going to be offering o ur nonprofit customers some tips to improve their donor stewardship. Sending a thank you letter after someone has made a gift to your nonprofit is an important part of building a relationship with that donor. But, while thank you letters are an easy and important way to cultivate donor relations, they are too often boring and impersonal. Some nonprofits might skip them altogether! Too many acknowledgement letters are canned and boring, starting with on behalf of our organization, thank you for your gift. A thank you letter for donations with a computer-generated signature, one that arrives late, one with the wrong salutation, and even one that never gets sent at all, is all too common. These situations can leaves donors wondering whether you received their gift, whether you appreciated it, or even if you care at all. If you are just starting to streamline your donor relations, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing and sending a thank you letter for donations. A Thank You Letter for Donations Should Be: Prompt Send a thank you letter out within 48 hours of receiving a gift. Too late, and the donor may feel forgotten. When they finally see your letter in the mail, they have already detached from the excitement of giving. They may even think you are asking them for money again. 24 to 48 hours after you receive their gift is an ideal time for getting a signed thank you letter out and in the mail. Interesting Skip the on behalf of our organization opening and be honest and bold. Use a conversat ional tone, not industry lingo. Talk about your organization in a meaningful way. What are your clients up to? What successes have they had? Focus on one person in particular to create a real connection. Imagine a donor opening the letter after a long day of work, and smiling as they realize how much their gift meant to your organization. Personalized Make sure your thank you letter sends a clear message. The message should be that you took time to write a letter because you appreciate the donor, not that you sent a canned and meaningless form. Use their correct name and nickname, such as Dear Bob, versus Dear Mr. Robert Robertson, III, if they go by Bob. Reference their previous gifts and how much you value their commitment, or if they are a first time donor, warmly welcome them to your organization. And last of all, make sure your Executive Director, Development Director, or a board member signs the letter. 1

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


How to Write a Thank You Letter for a Donation 5 Pointers
Posted by Dodd Caldwell Oct 30, 2013 Thank you letters do a lot more than say thank you to a donor. A thank you letter is the start of a conversation, and a relationship. Given that a lot of our customers are nonprofits and our staff is involved in nonprofits on the side, we want to give you some pointers on how to write a thank you letter for a donation pointers that can help you cultive and steward your donors. You may also want to reference our previous blog post about best practices for donation thank you letters. Remember giving isnt a one-way street. Your job as a nonprofit isnt over when a donor writes you a check or gives online. In fact, its just beginning. There are several ways you can thank your donors: an automated email (which MoonClerk provides anytime someone makes an online donation), a handwritten thank you letter, or a phone call. But keep in mind that a good thank you should be more than an acknowledgement of a gift and a tax receipt. Its a way to start a dialogue with your donors so that you can increase their giving, loyalty, and interaction with your nonprofit.

5 Tips on How to Write a Thank You Letter for a Donation:


1) Make Donors Feel Valued A well-written thank you letter says far more than thank you. Imagine youre a donor: you respond to an annual appeal that is urgent, inspiring, and calls for you to make a difference. You check the box or click the link that says Yes! I want to make a donation! and enter your credit card information. You wait to hear that your gift was received and appreciated. If you never even receive a confirmation, you might wonder why you even bothered donating. But, if you immediately receive a confirmation email and a few days later, you get an honest and genuine thank you from a real person, you will know that your gift wasnt just received, it was truly valued. 2) Make Donors Feel Informed Donors arent giving gifts solely due to their philanthropic attitude. A charitable gift is an investment in your organization and the work youre doing, and donors need to know theyv e really made a difference by opening their wallet. Donors want to know their money is being well spent and a well-written thank you letter is your chance to illustrate to your donors the work that you are able to do because of their commitment. Highlight the people you serve, the successes of your programs, and the real difference donors make. This will lay the foundation for converting them into repeat donors. 3) Make Donors Feel Like They Made A Difference Donors are responding to your call to action when they give you a gift. They need to know that gift really does matter. A donor who never hears from you, or who receives a canned thank you for your contribution email wont feel inspired. They wont know how theyre helping. They wont be able to channel the passion and excitement of giving into something much more than a one-time monetary contribution. Thanking them is just one way of letting them know they made a difference in the world, and their money translated into real change. 2

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


4) Inspire Confidence in Your Organization There are over 1.5 million registered 50(c)3 organizations registered in the U.S. The sad truth is not all of them are well run, or putting their donors dollars to good use. If youre cultivating donors, you want them to know youre achieving your mission with integrity and their dollars are being put to good use. A thank you note that is prompt, well written, and highlights the successes of your organization is a way to open the door to a dialogue with your donor about the work you do and the integrity of your organization. 5) Inspire Loyalty with Your Nonprofit A donor who sends a gift to you and feels appreciated, informed, and empowered to make a difference is a donor who will give again. A good thank you letter one that inspires your donors and puts a smile on their face is an invitation to donors to invest in your organization, and give again and again. Consider your thank you letters as a powerful way to show your appreciation to your donors, and to remind them of what their gift really means to your mission. We hope this blog post has provided you a few pointers on how to write a thank you letter for a donation. Soon well be posting some sample thank you letters from imaginary nonprofits so that youll have some examples to go by. If you have any questions about how Moonclerk can act as a tool to help your nonprofit collect donations on your site, check out our page for nonprofits or shoot us an email.

How can you make your thank you letters mean more than just words on the page?
Tell stories, particularly the story of one person, child, or animal whose life was made better through the donor's help. Here are some examples: 1. Dear Deborah, Thanks to you, Michael and his sister, Janet, celebrated Michael's 9th birthday with cake and balloons in a safe and loving place. They are no longer scared and love having their very own rooms. Thank you for your recent generous gift of $100 to Children's Residential Services of Greater Boston. Your willingness to help displaced children in our community weather the crises in their lives makes all the difference for children just like Michael and Janet. Thanks to you, we have provided 250 children just this year with a place to live, learn, and feel safe. Your donation will help purchase new computers for our kids over the next six months. The children are eager for the new computers so that they can do their homework and communicate with friends and family. The computers are part of our Excellence in Service Campaign that will make our home even nicer for Michael, Janet, and their new friends. You and other people like you have brought us closer to our goal of $50,000 for that campaign. 3

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


We would love to give you a tour so you can meet some of the 15 staff and 50 children who are now with us. We love to show off our comfy home, and the children enjoy meeting visitors. One or two might even show you what they can do with their new computers. Janet Teebs, our development director, is always available to set up a visit for you, or to answer any questions you may have. Don't hesitate to call her at 520-446-0912, or email her at janetteebs@CRS.com. We would love to keep you in the loop with our emails and newsletter. You can sign up for those at our site, www.crc.org. Again, thank you for all you do for our kids. You are a part of their lives too. Sincerely, Malcolm Wexter Executive Director P.S. We depend on volunteers to help us. If you would like to share your time, just let Janet know, and she will ask our volunteer coordinator to get in touch. We have frequent introductions to our work for volunteers. We would be delighted to see you there. 2. Dear Joanne, You are helping to build a kinder world! Thank you so much for your generous donation. We appreciate your support and your gifts will be put to great use supporting our mission to spread kindness. This year we are excited to be celebrating our 10th anniversary, and we are celebrating you too! Because of your thoughtful support, and other kind people like you, we are able to celebrate many community wide successes of spreading kindness. This school year, our Kindness Education programs in grades K-12 are being implemented in over 160 schools and are reaching the lives of over 83,000 students! 36 Kindness-themed mosaics have been created throughout the Tucson area to date More than 27,000 individuals annually volunteer their time to help create Bens Bells and Kindness Coins Over 33,000 Bens Bells have been distributed among our communities We are so grateful for your support you are making the vision of a kind world much more possible. Thank you for believing in the power of kindness! With Gratitude, 4

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


Jodi VanderPloeg Director of Development Your generous gifts were received as follows: XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX As a 501c3 charity, tax laws require us to notify you that this letter is the official acknowledgement of your gift. Also, we are required to certify that you received no goods or services in consideration of this contribution; therefore, the full amount of your gift is tax deductible. Thank you!

Twenty Things that Make a Thank-You Letter Donor-Centered


Acknowledgement is recognition. Receiving prompt and meaningful acknowledgement whenever they make a gift; having their gifts assigned to a specific end purpose such as a program, project or initiative that is narrower in scope than the mission of the entire organization; receiving a report, in measurable terms, on what was accomplished with the gift before being asked for another contribution. 1. The letter is a real letter, not a pre-printed card. 2. It is personally addressed. 3. It has a personal salutation (no dear donor or dear friend). 4. It is personally signed. 5. It is personally signed by someone from the highest ranks of the organization. 6. It makes specific reference to the intended use of funds. 7. It indicates approximately when the donor will receive an update on the program being funded. 8. It includes the name and phone number of a staff person whom the donor can contact at any time or an invitation to contact the writer directly. 9. It does not ask for another gift. 10. It does not ask the donor to do anything (like complete an enclosed survey, for example.) 11. It acknowledges the donors past giving, where applicable. 12. It contains no spelling or grammatical errors. 13. It has an overall can do, positive tone as opposed to a hand wringing one. 14. It communicates the excitement, gratitude and inner warmth of the writer. 5

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


15. It grabs the readers attention in the opening sentence. 16. It speaks directly to the donor. 17. It does not continue to sell. 18. It is concise no more than two short paragraphs long. 19. It is received by the donor promptly. 20. Plus, in some circumstances, the letter is handwritten.

Ten Tips for Donor Thank You Letters


You Can Never Say Thanks Too Well or Too Often Saying thank you to a donor ends one transaction but builds a bridge to future support and deeper engagement. Do it well, and you are on your way to future fundraising success. Here are 10 tips for making that thank you letter just right. 1. Get it in the mail fast Janie Airey/Getty Images Forty-eight hours is an ideal turn around for a thank you letter. If that is impossible, aim for no more than a week. You want the donor to remember that he made the donation so that the thank you reinforces his action and rewards him for that decision. Getting the letter there quickly will make your charity's name stick in the donor's mind, reassure him that you actually received the donation, and impress him with your efficiency and thoughtfulness. Even online donors should receive a mailed thank you letter, but that is expensive and many nonprofits are moving to online as much as possible. In that case, make sure that your online donor has not just gotten an emailed receipt. Brush up on best practices for emailed thank you letters. In crowded email boxes, your thank you letter can go unnoticed, so pay attention to its subject line and how recognizable it is to your donor. 2. Make it personal Dan Burn-Forti/Getty Images Personalize your thank you letter with the donor's name (double check the spelling and never call a Ms a Mr), and write directly to the individual. First names are powerful, so use them if you can. Use personal pronouns, such as "you," "we," and "I." Include information about the donor that you may know, such as how long they've been a donor, or that you enjoyed seeing them at the last event. Perhaps the donor has received an award or gotten a promotion. Feel free to add something about it to your letter. A good donor records system will be your best friend when it comes to this level of personalization. Most systems, even low cost ones, have the ability to capture current information about your donors. When did they last give? Have they volunteered? 6

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


When was the last time the donor had contact with your organization and what was the nature of that interaction? If this is a first time donor, send a welcome package, put the donor's name on your mailing and/or email list to receive newsletters and announcements. If thanking a long time donor, consider a handwritten note rather than a formal letter. 3. Coordinate it with campaign themes Getty Images Coordinate the thank you with the appeal or campaign that brought in the donation. Draft a template letter when you write your fundraising materials. Think of it as part of one campaign package. If the donation is in response to some other stimulus...perhaps an event you staged...relate the letter to that event. Think continuity for the donor. Coming full circle back to the appeal will improve the stickiness of your organization's name in the donor's mind. It is also reassuring to the donor and shows that you are organized and taking the time to get it right. If the donation is in response to a specific email appeal, do develop a post-donation landing page on your website specifically for those donors. Generic is out. Specificity to what the donor saw that compelled him or her to give is a must. Tie your thank you into that theme, both the emailed acknowledgment that is sent immediately and your mailed letter as well. Even if the donation is to a generic appeal on your website, consider developing a "wow" post-donation landing page. This one from charity:water is a good example. 4. Use stories to connect donors to results Getty Images Help donors visualize how their money will be spent. The best way to do that is to tell a story about a particular person who will be helped by the donation. It needn't be long, just a few sentences and using a person's name can be enough to arouse empathy in the donor. Make your donor the hero of those stories. He or she made that story possible. Keep an inventory of stories about the good things your charity accomplishes. then set up blocks of copy using those stories and drop them into your thank you letters as appropriate. Changing up the stories frequently will keep your letters fresh and make it easier to send out many letters without having to make each of them completely new. Even if you serve people who are in sensitive situations and you need to protect their identities, there are ways to tell their stories without compromising their privacy. 5. Have a real person sign your letters Getty Images Avoid digital signatures unless you're sending literally thousands of letters at a time. Even then, reserve letters that go to donors giving significant donations for your executive director, the board president, or a volunteer fundraising chairperson to sign. Use real first class stamps for these letters. 6. Add a personal, hand-written note Getty Images If appropriate, ask the Executive Director or Board President to add a personal note to the letter. This is especially gratifying if it is a long time donor who knows the leaders personally. 7

Thank You Letter for Donations Best Practices


Mentioning a recent event that the donor attended will both remind the donor of a pleasant experience and add authenticity to the note. Consider having a note writing party with volunteers who write notes on letters or attach post-it notes with handwritten messages. 7. Include a reply envelope Jan Stromme/Getty Images I don't recommend asking for another donation in a thank you letter. Honestly, that turns people off more than you think. However, just including the envelope might remind the donor that future donations are welcome. Many donors will keep these envelopes and use them for a donation later...or even right away. For a different view of including a reply envelope, see How to write a better thank-you letter (and why it matters) 8. Use the letter as a tax receipt Elizabeth Simpson/Getty Images Your donor thank you can also be a receipt. You must provide a receipt annually for tax purposes if a donor gives $250 or more, and you can include that disclosure with this letter. Thank you letters today typically include the proper disclosures each time a donor gives, whether online, by check or through monthly giving. It is good practice as well to provide a summary of giving for the year at the beginning of the next year, just at the time when donors are typically preparing their tax returns. Just remember that a receipt is not a thank you. The receipt should be a minor part of the letter. Check this example of a letter that also includes a record of the donation that can be used for tax purposes. 9. Invite more engagement Getty Images It's always nice to include an invitation to visit your agency and see your work first-hand. In today's world where you might be soliciting donations from people all over the world, engagement can be attained through social media. Encourage your donor to follow your organization on Facebook and Twitter or any other social networks that you participate in. Since there are no hyperlinks in a mailed letter, give your website address and then make sure that your social media buttons are easy to find. Include a specific invitation to visit the website and click on those buttons and to sign up for your email newsletter or other communications. Social media icons are some of the most important elements on your charity's website. 10. Add a postscript and provide contact info We are all skimmers. That's why most of us will read the top part of a letter and then skip down to the P.S. Then we may go back and read the rest of the letter. Direct mail marketers know all about the P.S. and always include it. Sometimes they have more than one. For your thank you letter, you might want to refer again to the story you provided ("Michael and Jane are safe and happy because of you") or put important contact information there. Donors should have the name, telephone number and email address of someone in the organization that they can contact with questions. Customer service is just as important for nonprofits as for businesses, so make it easy for a donor to find a real person to talk with. 8