Thank You 101

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Many of you may be working on your year-end appeal, which is great, but have you given any thought to how you’ll thank your donors? Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last minute to-do item and it shows.

You can stand out by taking the time to give your donors a great thank you experience. In my last post, I wrote about Appeal Letter Writing 101. Now let’s continue to get back to basics with Thank You 101.

Start planning now

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I’m a big fan of handwritten thank you notes. They will stand out in your donor’s mailbox. How often do you get a handwritten card?  

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank you party. Your donors will love it. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $50. This will help us serve more students in our afterschool program. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past three years.

Phone calls make a difference, too

Another more personal way to thank your donors is with a phone call. Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Steve, this Jennifer Collins and I’m a board member at Helping Hand. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an awesome letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an awesome thank you letter. Many thank you letters are mediocre at best, so you’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

This sounds obvious, but thank you letters are about thanking the donor. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something amazing.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And my biggest pet peeve – Don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

You’ll notice the examples I gave above were personalized – welcoming new donors and recognizing previous gifts and upgrades. You need to do that, too. Send different letters to new donors, renewing donors, donors who’ve upgraded their gifts, and monthly donors. And you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

Let your donors know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out is to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You!  If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal.  You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end after you wow your donors with your letter. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Make a good impression with your thank you landing page

Many people donate online. Make this a good experience for your donors.

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s usually about as exciting as a Home Depot receipt.

Open with Thank you, Kevin! or You’re amazing!  Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

5 Thank You Page Best Practices for Any Nonprofit

The thank you email needs to impress your donors, too

Start off by putting Thank You! or You Just Did Something Incredible! in the subject line. This will make your message stand out in your donor’s ever-growing inbox.

Follow the examples above and make it all about gratitude. Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

Thank your donors as soon as possible

Show your donors how much you appreciate their gift by thanking them as soon as possible, within 48 hours if you can. You can do this if you have your thank letters/scripts and team ready to go before your appeal goes out. Then each day you get a donation, send out notes/letters or make phone calls. The highest volume will be right after your appeal goes out. Be ready!

I highly recommend putting together a thank you plan, which covers some of the things mentioned in this post as well as the equally important thanking your donors all year round.

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