Nonprofit leaders – a donor thank you note is the beginning of future gifts.
Let me share my hard-earned
lesson learned about donor gratitude.
It was early in the formation of the foundation that I helped establish and ran for 10 years.
The staff headed out for our week-long, annual convention that was months in the making.
Consequently, we left a skeleton crew at the office and planned to respond to any gifts received upon our return.
We knew we would have gifts
to process when we returned.
With great surprise, a major gift came in the mail when we were out.
Immediately upon my return, I received a call from the major donor.
He was not happy.
He had not heard from us.
You see, he mailed in $5,000 and wanted to know if we had received his gift.
To say the least, I was devastated.
Make sure you subscribe to my
weekly insights by clicking here!
That way, you won’t miss out on hearing about my fundraising tips and hard-earned lessons!
Obviously, I apologized to the donor
and tried to explain that we had
been out at our annual convention.
It didn't matter to the donor.
He had not heard from us.
As you can imagine, he wanted to know
that we had received his gift that he had
put in the mail over a week ago.
I will tell you –
I pledged to never let that happen again.
Without question, I pledged to always be prompt in thanking donors.
Here are some lessoned learned from this painful experience of mine:
First, donors want to know
you received their gift.
They want you to appreciate them and their gift.
Second, they want to feel
valued by the organization.
Letting the donor know
they are appreciated is critical.
The first step upon receiving a major gift is to make a personal thank-you call.
And as soon as you hang up from that phone call, write a personal note of thanks.
Now, not all thank you notes are created equal.
Let’s look closer at a
Here are three absolutes
with every donor thank you note:
#1. Write a hand-written, personal, and heartfelt note.
Consider your personal connection and what the donor values about your organization.
It's important to be sincere
when you write your message.
A quick tip is to always
make your first line memorable.
You have only one chance to make a first impression when someone opens your note.
Make your words count.
#2. State specifically in your donor thank you note how their gift will make a difference.
It’s about the donor – the impact they are making. It’s not about the organization.
Help your donors understand
that they are part of the solution.
Let them know they are the hero
for your organization.
Share a story that conveys
the impact of their gift.
Say, for example, “thanks to you, 140 homeless women and children received a community style holiday dinner this year.”
Share recent conversations you had with beneficiaries of your work.
#3. Send your thank you note
within 24-hours of gift receipt.
After immediately making the phone call to the donor to say thank you, send a note.
Sending a note promptly sends a message of how much you value them and their gift.
State the amount in the note – it lets the donor know you know the size of their gift.
Donors put much thought into
how much they would contribute.
It was not on a whim.
They had been thinking about it for some time.
Ok, to wrap up,
remember these three tips.
And remember these handwritten notes are in addition to the acknowledgment letters
generated from your customer relationship management system – your CRM.
For a couple of additional tips, have your board chair sign the acknowledgment letters with a special hand-written note at the bottom.
Have other board members send thank-you notes or make personal calls to say thanks.
Provide sample language and script to help make it easy for your board members!
Be creative in how you show gratitude.
Most important, you cannot
over thank your major donors.
They have more to give.
My goal as a fundraising coach is to make sure you treat donors like they should be treated –
with great respect and admiration.
Your major donors allow your organization to fulfill its mission and keep the lights on.
Now, my question to you is:
How do you make your donor
thank-you notes special and personalized?
Let me know!
Provide a comment below!
Ok, guys — remember to sign up for my weekly fundraising tips and strategies by clicking here
or going to
Look for that bright Green Button!
I look forward to seeing you next time!
Bye for now!
Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at email@example.com.