The most important thing about your donation thank-you letters is not what you say or how you say it but how quickly you say it.
According to Stephen Hitchcock in Open Immediately!, for many donors, a brief thank-you note pre-printed with just the amount and date of the gift can be more effective than long-winded thank-you letters that arrive long after the donor mailed you a gift.
Your gift acknowledgement notes and cards need to leave your office within 48 hours of receiving a donor’s gift. Never take longer than a week. You need to be prompt with your gratitude for a number of reasons.
1. Being prompt is being polite. We all like dealing with people who are thankful
2. Your donors need to be reminded that they made the right decision in sending you a gift. They have many choices about where they can send their charitable donations. You need to remind them that their donation to your organization was the right choice. The longer you take to send that message, the less likely donors are to feel a kinship with your mission (and give again).
3. One of the prime reasons that donors lapse (stop giving) is that they feel unappreciated. The easiest way to show your appreciation is to thank your donors quickly, appropriately and enthusiastically.
A word about thanking major donors
Donors who send you particularly large gifts in the mail deserve a phone call or a personal visit. Which usually causes a problem with promptness. These donors are usually flagged, taken out of the daily receipting and thank-you process, and placed in a to-do pile for later follow up by the executive director, director of advancement or the person who signed the fundraising letter that prompted the gift.
And that’s where the problem arises. Donors who are taken out of the regular thank-you system tend to be thanked in person, eventually, but much later than is ideal. I recommend that you follow the advice of Stanley Weinstein. In his book, Complete Guide to Fundraising Management, Stanley recommends including major donors in your usual gift acknowledgement process. Mail them the same thank-you letter, note or card that you send to everyone else. That way they are thanked promptly. Then follow up with a more personal thank you note (perhaps hand-written), a phone call or a personal visit.
New Handbook shows you how
Need help with writing terrific thank-you letters? Read Boost Your Revenues and Donor Loyalty with Effective Donation Thank-You Letters. The fifth Handbook in the Hands-On Fundraising Series features tips on common mistakes to avoid, a line-by-line analysis of a donation thank-you letter, and a helpful list of things you can show your gratitude for other than the gift alone. If you need to master the art of writing the single most important letter in direct mail fundraising, this new Handbook is for you. It’s available for immediate download. Learn more by clicking the link below.
About the author
Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor and mentor who helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using creative fundraising letters. Learn more about his services, view free sample fundraising letters, and sign up for free weekly tips like this at http://www.RaiserSharpe.com.