Mastering The Art of the “Thank-You Note”

As fundraisers, we are programmed to single-mindedly pursue the holy grail of the nonprofit world – the donor contribution. But one of your most important jobs happens after you have received a contribution from a donor. Thank-you notes are an art form, and mastering them can make the difference between cultivating one-time givers and lifelong donors for your organization.

Tip #1: Every gift is valuable

It is absolutely imperative that you recognize the value of every gift your organization receives, regardless of its size. Whether the check is for $5 or $5,000, every gift deserves a thoughtful and sincere acknowledgement. Here’s a fact: some donors initially contribute a small gift just to see how you will respond. If they see that you valued their small gift, larger gifts will follow.

Tip #2: Time matters

Your desk is piled high with things to do and you are tempted to put thank-you letters at the bottom of pile. Resist that urge! Timeliness is everything when it comes to saying thank-you. The rule of thumb is that thank-you letters should go out within 3 days of receiving a gift. No exceptions.

Tip #3: Each gift meets a need

Include in your thank-you letter a sentence or two telling your donors how their gift contributed to your organization’s mission. This doesn’t need to be individualized for every thank-you letter. Often, a simple “Your gift will go a long way toward helping us reach our goal of . . .” will suffice.

Tip #4: The personal touch

Personalizing is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do. Yet I am amazed at how resistant most fundraisers and nonprofit leaders are to the possibility of adding a handwritten line or two at the bottom of their standard, printed, thank-you letter. For best results, use blue or red ink so your words stand out from the rest of the letter.

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