Are Fundraising Thank You Letters Passé?

31/07/2012 at 16:04 Leave a comment


Soooo, I wrote this thank you letter from a donor. It generated some great conversations. Including Robin (Robesie) who “wants to play devil’s advocate” and left this comment on the blog:

…how many donors do you think read the thank you letter as opposed to glancing to make sure their name and address are correct and that they have the tax deductible amount and tax ID correctly written? I work in fundraising and find myself doing that every time I get a letter. Glance it over and then put it in my donations folder. I know I am not the typical direct mail donor (I’m in my late 20s), but I do work in fundraising and only really read direct mail closely (and really only for comparison sake to my own organization’s direct mail letters). We live in a busy world, how often do people read the letter?

Here is my response and I would love to hear your thoughts

I would contend it is our job as nonprofit professionals and fundraisers to make sure donors know how much we appreciate them. Thank you letters are often the first next step in forming a relationship. So if you aren’t reading the letter, there is something wrong. I need to not only communicate a thank you for your gift, but the thank you letter should also convey impact and engage the donor. We can do that through a collage of photos, update on a on program, fact sheet about the organization, info graphic or thank you letters could be written from program participants. It is up to us to make the engagement with our donors…well engaging. A thank you letter should not be seen as merely a piece of paperwork to be filed by us or our donors. It is too important for that and should be seen as part of an integrated communications and engagement plan for donor outreach. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Love the discussion you started!

I appreciate those who shared the post and their thoughts:

Jeremy Butler for reblogging!
Nonprofit Management Masters
Tania Little 
Craig Linton The Fundraising Detective
And many who shared via Twitter and Facebook.

Jeff Brooks in his blog Future Fundraising Now: Thank You Letters than Make Donors Happy. He writes and I agree!

You put a lot of thought in effort into asking for the gift. You should put at least some into thanking for the gift. At minimum, that means your message of thanks is:

  • Well written, engaging, and emotional.
  • On the same topic as what they gave to.
  • Correct — the amount is correct and their name and
  • Address is error-free.
  • Prompt.

Good thanking is part of a good relationship. Your donors are worth it.

The Fundraising Collective posted Why, Thank You. After dissecting an excellent and real thank you letter they ask:

Does your thank you letter:
1.       Come from a person, not an organisation
2.       Demonstrate the passion of your work
3.       Make the donor feel that they have genuinely made a difference
4.       Include timely information
5.       Talk about you and your, not we and our
6.       Say thank you more than once
7.       Arrive hand-signed
8.       Make the donor feel proud to have given
Just in saying thank you well, this charity has made me feel like a critical part of their mission.
We should all aspire to making our donors a critical part of our mission and making sure our donors know how important they are to our work.

Entry filed under: A Better You, Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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