Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers

THOUGHT·FUL

adjective\ˈtht-fəl\

: serious and quiet because you are thinking: done or made after careful thinking   : done or made after careful thinking: showing concern for the needs or : showing concern for the needs of feelings of other people

Thanking your donors is not a choice. It is a must.

If you have not already prepared your thank you letters for your organization’s year-end appeal - you are late. What? You don’t write special thank you letters for your Year End Appeal? Hmm... well, you are missing an opportunity to connect thoughtfully with your donors and to help ensure a renewal or second gift.

Yes, thank you letters are that important, but you knew that. What you may not have realized was that a timely and relevant thank you letter (or email) is the first step to more gifts. So let’s look at what you still have time to do.

Typically, I have a bunch of different letters ready to go as soon as my appeal drops. The letters should correspond to the type of donor and the amount of the gift. The breakdown might look something like this -
1. Renewals below $250*
2. Renewals above $250
3. New gifts below $250
4. New gifts above $250
5. Recurring gifts below your Major Gift level

Your letters should use the same themes you used in your year-end appeal. By using the same themes, you are reinforcing the ideas put forth in those materials. It also makes it clear that your donor is supporting a specific discrete appeal. Most importantly it shows that you put as much thought into thanking people as you did in soliciting them.

Your letters should also reflect the donor’s relationship with your organization. Renewals should get a shorter letter that assumes they know something about your organization. It could seem a bit insulting for a long time donor, even a small donor, to get a letter that welcomes them and explains the organization. That would not be very thoughtful.

What these letters should do is thank the donor and tell them about something new or unique that is happening with your organization. Think “Insider” information. It should also be no more than ¾ of a page. I would also recommend that as many as possible of the letters for new donors above $250 have real signatures. In fact, if you have 1,000 donors or less, I would make sure every letter has a real signature. It will make a difference.

You should use the same breakdown I suggested in the last BLOG to decide who gets a letter with a live signature. A good rule of thumb is that if the ASK letter had a live signature then the thank you letter should as well.

Thank you letters to new donors give you a second chance to educated the donor about your organization. You can assume that something about your organization resonated with the donor. In a single page, build on one or two aspects of your year-end appeal materials. If you spotlighted a specific program, then go a little more in-depth.

Now, if one of your letters was very specific then your thank you letter for people who responded to that letter ought to be very specific. I once did a letter that was highly specific to a single program and only mailed to a list that had an affinity for the program. Donors to this letter got a thank you letter that was equally specific.

An aside –
By the way, I am assuming that you are coding all of your reply devices. Coding will allow you to know to which list and the letter a donor is responding. If you are using a mail house, they can help you to create a code that is pre-printed on all of your letters. This type of tracking is VITAL if you want to the ability to do any real analytics on your mailing. Look for a blog post on this subject in the future.

*The cutoff amount should be below your major gift amount and above your average gift. Also choosing a single cutoff amount will make your life much easier than having a number of different cutoff levels.

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