It’s our delight to introduce you to Abby Jarvis, a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Abby shares some practical advice on how best to craft donor thank you letters.
As a fundraiser, you know the importance of gratitude and passion.
When you go out and ask for donations, you have to channel that passion and gratefulness and convince others to care about your cause.
If you’re successful, you can receive contributions of time and money, and you’ll grow your donor base.
And that’s great!
But before you start celebrating, make sure you send out great thank-you letters and emails.
The donation process may be over, but that doesn’t mean that your nonprofit should stop interacting with donors.
We’re going to give you an overview of a few of the components your acknowledgements should contain.
There are obviously many more best practices (read all about those here), but we’re just going to hit some of the high points here.
- Encourage more engagement
- Incorporate stories & images.
- Use the acknowledgement as a donation receipt.
- Send a letter from someone who has been helped by your nonprofit.
- Brand your acknowledgements.
- Include contact info.
1. Encourage more engagement.
The number one rule of a donation acknowledgement is not to ask for another donation.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t promote other engagement opportunities (like volunteering) to your donors. Donors are most engaged with your nonprofit in the first 48 hours after they’ve made a donation — giving them a “job” to do is a great way to keep them involved in what you’re doing.
In fact, encouraging more engagement can help increase the lifetime value of your supporters.
Think about why you got involved in the nonprofit arena and how you got motivated to support your organization’s cause. Then, use those feelings to guide you in crafting an acknowledgement.
You can encourage donors to:
- Attend a rally or event.
- Become a volunteer or advocate.
- Engage with other on social media about your cause.
- Look into becoming a board member.
- Join a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
- And more!
Of course, each of these engagement opportunities will work well for different types of donors. A first-time donor probably isn’t as interested in becoming a board member as a major gift donor might be.
The key here is to tailor your engagement suggestions to suit each group of donors appropriately.
Takeaway: Use your acknowledgement to start a conversation about other engagement opportunities. You shouldn’t ask for more money, but you can still interact with your donor after they’ve made a contribution!
2. Incorporate stories & images.
You already know that you and your staff are changing the world and connecting donors to your cause.
Why not communicate that passion to your donors with stories and images?
You can be as creative as you want to be with these pictures and narratives.
For instance, you could:
- Tell a story from the perspective of someone your organization has helped.
- Tell a success story about a previous project.
- Include images or videos of the animals, people, or communities you serve.
- Include pictures or videos of your nonprofit’s staff saying, “Thank you!”
You’re only limited by your creativity! Just remember that the acknowledgement is about thanking your donor and showing them what their donations are going toward.
Takeaway: Incorporate stories and images into your donor acknowledgements to break up the text and demonstrate what donors’ contributions are funding.
3. Use the acknowledgement as a donation receipt.
Donation receipts are used by donors to claim tax deduction on their returns.
Instead of sending out an acknowledgement and a donation receipt, double up and send both pieces of information in one letter or email!
Make sure you include the following information on the donation receipt:
- The donor’s name
- Your organization’s name, federal tax ID number, and a statement indicating 501(c)(3) status
- Date the donation was made
- The amount of the donation
- A statement indicating whether any goods or services were provided in exchange for the donation
- Name and signature of an authorized organizational representative
As long as this information is somewhere on a letter or email and is sent to a donor before January 31st of the year following the donation, donors can use it to claim deductions on their tax returns.
It’s important to give donors the information they need within a donation receipt. But it’s equally important to incorporate those receipts into the acknowledgements you send to supporters.
Takeaway: Donation receipts and acknowledgements both play an important role in the thank-you process. Save your nonprofit some time and money and combine the two documents. Plus, you’ll make the process easier for your donors.
Bonus: Check out Qgiv’s Guide to Donation Receipts for more info!
4. Send a letter from someone who has been helped by your nonprofit.
Donors don’t just want to feel a connection to your nonprofit; they want to feel connected to the people you help and serve.
While there are numerous ways to accomplish this, one of the easiest is to have the people and animals you serve write or help to write your donor acknowledgements!
- A child could create an adorable card to send out to a donor who helped her.
- A family could take a picture together and write a brief thank-you letter.
- Puppies and kittens could place their painted paws at the end of letters as a signature.
- And more!
Granted, this tip will play out slightly differently for each organization.
But if you can execute it well, it can be a great way to personalize your donor acknowledgements and show supporters what their donations are going toward.
Takeaway: Ask someone who’s been helped by your organization to write a thank-you letter or card and send it to donors. You’ll not only personalize your letters, but you’ll also involve the people you help in the acknowledgement process.
5. Brand your acknowledgements.
It would be pretty weird if your donors received an unmarked letter or email that had no resemblance to your nonprofit whatsoever.
You want to keep their giving experience consistent and branded.
Well, nonprofits that have a consistent communications strategy see more donations down the line. Donors are more likely to give to organizations that they trust.
Part of building (and keeping!) your donors’ trust is communicating with them in a consistent and regular fashion.
Branding your acknowledgements lets donors know that the letter or email is definitely from your nonprofit and that it contains information about their donation.
Takeaway: Brand your acknowledgements to establish a greater amount of trust between you and your donors.
6. Include contact info.
Your donors might have questions about their donation, your organization, or the work that you do.
Give them the contact information of someone that they can easily get in touch with if they have questions or concerns.
This doesn’t mean you add your organization’s 1-800 number at the bottom of the acknowledgement and hope that that covers it.
Add the name, phone number, and email address of someone who can personally answer any questions that your donors might have.
Takeaway: Including contact information not only gives your donors an easy way to get in touch with your organization, it also helps to establish trust, increasing the likelihood that donors will reach out and engage with your nonprofit further.
Hopefully these tips will get your creativity flowing. Now go out and compose your own thank-you letters for your amazing donors!