How to Write a (Fundraising) Thank-You Note
At the Fundraising Success Engage conference week before last, several fundraisers got into a discussion about acknowledgement letters. Everyone agreed they were vitally important, but when we got down in the weeds of exactly how they should be constructed and what they should say, there was a lot of uncertainty.
So, let me share one formula that has been a proven winner for many of our clients. It's not rocket science, but it does need to be written correctly, and mailed immediately. The longer the delay, the lower the impact. Here's what we do:
1. Personalize. The letter must be personalized, even if the gift came in from a "Dear Friend" letter.
2. Print it on a single 8.5 x 11" sheet with a perforated 3.5 x 8.5" reply at the bottom. No letter copy on the back (putting credit card info on the back of the reply is fine), so the letter will need to be short and sweet.
3. Acknowledge the gift and date received: "Thank you so much for your kind gift of $XX, which we received on DATE."
(The phrase "kind gift" phrase led to another discussion about whether to say, "Thank you for your generous gift." Some people don't like to use the word generous because, they ask, what if the donor only sent a small amount - just $5 or $10? Wouldn't calling them generous make them think they were getting a form letter, or that you were being disingenuous? My feeling is that a gift of any amount is generous, since the donor didn't have to give anything at all. More than 90 percent of the people you asked didn't. Besides, who wouldn't like to be thought of as generous? But it's a judgment call. It's up to you.)
4. Refer to the appeal the donor supported. "Your support of our Annual Fund couldn't have come at a better time ..."
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.