The Power of the Thank You

By Matt Bitzegaio on October 3, 2019

This post shared requirements of the IRS to acknowledge a donor’s gift to your organization – the long and short of it is you aren’t REQUIRED to do much, but we touched on what you should think about doing when your donors give.

Today we are going to go a little deeper into the world of post-donation-operations and look at what makes a more genuine thank you and acknowledgment for a donation.

It is really easy to fall into the trap of thinking of thank you letters as busywork – you know, the stuff you give to the intern to do and don’t think about again.

The problem with that way of thinking is it causes you to miss out on an opportunity to engage your donors deeply and continue to build and strengthen your relationship.

Oftentimes, those personalized thank you letters are the building blocks that drive donors to give again, and hopefully, give even more. Overlooking or dismissing these could be a significant mistake.

Penelope Burk did a great job outlining how to create a compelling and donor-centric thank you letter in her article from 2011, “Donor-Centered Thank You Letters: Your First Step to the Next Gift”.

It is a timeless and thorough breakdown of what goes into a powerful and effective thank you, and eight years later is still just as relevant. I would encourage you to read the whole article, but she breaks down 20 things that should be a part of your thank you letters.

Here are my top-5 takeaways from her article I think are really important and worth remembering, and my added notes about each point:

  1. It has a personal salutation (no “dear donor” or “dear friend”).
    This is really important. If you are generating your thank you letters from a software product, make sure you can merge in real data about the donor to personalize the message.

  2. It is personally signed.
    I think taking the time to have someone at the higher levels of your organization personally sign thank you letters is especially powerful. While at it, adding a short handwritten note to the bottom of the printed letter can be quite effective in providing an extra personal touch.

  3. It does not ask for another gift.
    Focus on thanking the donor for the current gift. There will be time for future conversations and asks down the road.

  4. It does not ask the donor to do anything (like complete an enclosed survey, for example.)
    Again, focus on the thank you, not asking the donor for more of their time or effort at this point!

  5. It contains no spelling or grammatical errors.
    This seems common-sense, but you would be surprised how many times I have seen thank-yous with these issues. Proofread and make sure you are representing your organization well!

As I said, this article is worth taking the time to read.  Donors give for many reasons, but in most cases, sending a donor-centric thank you letter goes a long way in building a deep relationship and retaining your donors.

Pro Tip:

In DonorDock, use the template editor to easily build personalized thank you letters. You can have as many of them as you need; this means letters for different types of gifts or special gifts like honors and memorials.

You can even embed images, so get a digital version of your signature and include that to make it look hand-signed!