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Donation thank you letters: 7 tips to acknowledge your donors

Donation thank you letters: 7 tips to acknowledge your donors

As we get closer to the end of the year, you may see a spike in donations as your donors look to allocate money for year-end tax purposes. For you and your nonprofit, that means even more thank you letters being sent. Sometimes, when there’s an uptick in activity, mistakes can be made. Or, worse, those letters fall through the cracks and are never sent (21% of donors in an Abila Donor Engagement Study mentioned they were never even thanked for their gifts).

How can you avoid a thank you letter mistake that may cost you a second or recurring donation to your nonprofit? We have tips on how to ensure your donors feel acknowledged, recognized and taken care of, in the hopes that they continue to give again. Here are 7 tips to help you avoid thank you letter mistakes and make year-end giving acknowledgments a bit less stressful.

1. Plan your thank you letters early

Think about the amount of time you put into crafting the perfect solicitation letter and donor pitch. Your fundraising communications—from ask to thank you—should be planned together. Create your thank you letter templates (mail or email formats) prior to sending out your asks; this makes the thank you process that much easier.

2. Personalize and acknowledge

While having a template ready to go is important, form letters need not apply when thanking your donors. Ensure that the salutation is personalized, that their name is spelled correctly and that you acknowledge exactly what they gave—this includes any special request they may have made in terms of where they wanted the money to go, if the gift was given anonymously, etc.

3. Don’t forget the little guys

Thank you letters are not just for major donors, capital campaigns and recurring gifts. Everyone who donates to your cause should receive a letter. If each gift truly makes a difference, then each donor receives a thank you. You never know when a first-time donor or a small amount at the start can lead to bigger donations down the road.

4. Break down the donations

Let your donor know the specifics of where their donation went or what it is being used for. Testimonials or images from those benefiting from the donation can be a nice touch. Use sentences such as, “Because of you, we were able to…” or “Your donation put us closer to our goal of…” to show them that their gift is helping you progress.

5. Keep it short, keep it thankful

Don’t overwhelm your donors with a multi-page thank you letter that reads more like a follow-up ask than it does a true acknowledgment of their donation. Keep it simple and add special touches like handwritten signatures or notes on the margin of the thank you from your organization’s executive director, president or fundraising chair.

6. Time your letters appropriately

There are many experts that say thank you letters should be sent within 48 hours of receiving a donation. This also assumes that donations are being entered into your CRM or tracked in real-time when they come in. And, while online donations are great, you likely have donation checks coming in as well. Not only do you need to ensure your timing of the letters being sent is planned ahead of time, make sure that you coordinate with those in charge of coding and entering donations into donor records—this is an important part of the thank you letter process.

7. Keep in touch

Most thank you letters, whether sent via email or through the USPS, are done on letterhead from your organization. But, if your donor had a question or wanted to reach out personally, would he or she know how to get a hold of you? Think about adding your direct dial or extension, your personal email address or other pieces of contact information outside of the standard “front desk” contact information.

It’s important to note that receipts and auto-generated information about donation amounts, transaction date, etc. are not the same as a thank you letter. These communication pieces should be kept separate and true thank you letters used instead of automated receipts that includes donation amounts and tax ID numbers.

Looking for creative ways to thank your donors outside of a typical donation thank you letter? Here are 7 additional ways to think outside the box and show your donors you care.

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