I’ve been to several memorial services over the last few years. I guess that’s what happens as you get older. In most cases, the families designated charities to donate to, often in lieu of flowers. I’ve always liked this. You get to honor someone and support a charity, as well.
I gave five memorial gifts over the last two years. Unfortunately, the responses from the nonprofits were pretty marginal. Four organizations sent generic thank you letters. Three of them acknowledged it was a memorial gift. One sent a very generic email with no acknowledgement this was a memorial gift.
If your organization is a recipient of a memorial gift, don’t miss this opportunity to connect and build relationships with these donors. Just think, out of the multitude of nonprofits and charities out there, the family chose yours (they may have chosen one or two others, too).
How do acknowledge your memorial gifts? Do you send the same old boring thank you letter, or do you give some thought to creating a personal and heartfelt thank you. Here’s how you can do a better job of acknowledging your memorial gifts.
Work with the family
Most likely the family will contact you about being a recipient of a memorial gift. Talk to them and ask why your organization was important to this person. Perhaps he was a volunteer, donor, or patient. Use this information in your thank letter.
Give the family the names and addresses (not amounts) of any donors in case they want to write their own thank you letters.
Thank your donors right away
This is basic Thank You Letter 101. I received one letter four months after my donation and another came three months later. In both cases the organizations weren’t spending the extra time writing a great thank you letter. Instead, I received this – “We are sincerely grateful for your support. Our goals are ambitious ones and the charitable contributions we receive from supporters like you make our mission achievable.” The other two letters arrived about a week after the donation.
Acknowledge that it’s a memorial gift
Segmenting your thank you letters is always a good idea, whether it’s a new donation, upgrade, or a gift in memory of someone. You want to recognize each donor.
Be sure to add a field on your donation page and pledge form for memorial gifts.
Make the thank you personal
This donor just lost someone they knew, perhaps someone close to them. Don’t send them an impersonal form letter, like the example above.
This is a great time to send a handwritten note. You may not have that many memorial gifts and they’re going to come at different times of the year, not necessarily during a fundraising campaign. Take time to create something personal.
As with all thank you notes/letters, let the donor know how her gift is helping you make a difference.
Here’s a sample.
Thank you so much for your donation in memory of John Smith. John was a longtime donor and was very committed to fighting homelessness. Because of your generous gift, we can help more families find a place to call home.
Never miss an opportunity to build relationships. Invite these donors to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media, or volunteer. Only one of the letters I received listed ways to get involved with the organization.
Don’t take your memorial donors for granted. They may not have donated to your organization if they didn’t have some interest what you do. Keep them interested and engaged.
Read on for information and sample letters.