When it comes to thanking donors, this is a horror story: A donor writes a check for $50,000, sends it in to the charity, and waits and waits for days and then finally calls the charity to make sure it received the donation.
Obviously, something like that should never happen. It’s wildly irresponsible. But it points up a very practical reason for sending a thank you. In addition to thanking your donor for giving, naturally, one very important purpose of the thank you letter is simply to confirm for your donor that you did actually receive her gift.
Donors will wonder about this after they give. Think about it: In your personal or business life, how many times have you sent something to somebody and never received an acknowledgement that the other person received it? Drives you crazy, right? You just wanted a simple, “got it, thanks,” to put your concerns to rest.
It’s an often-overlooked reason why the thank you letter is so crucial. Of course, in your thank you letters, you’ll go beyond a simple confirmation, and that’s where fundraising expert Jerry Huntsinger comes in.
In his Eighty-six tutorials on creating fundraising letters and packages, he points out four reasons to send thank yous:
- Create a warm glow around your donor.
- Say thank you in a genuine and personal way.
- Educate your donors.
- Prompt another gift.
Wait – what’s that third one? Educate your donors? Isn’t it true in fundraising that if you’re trying to educate donors you’re losing them? Yes, but Jerry makes a valid point here.
When your donor gets a thank you letter, you pretty much have a captive audience. Chances are, your donor is going to read it top to bottom – which is certainly not true of most donor communications. So, “don’t hesitate,” as Jerry says, “to explain your organizational purpose and goals.”
This is the chance to reinforce for your donor why your charity’s work is important and why it matters. It’s surely a good idea to do this in the thank you letter for new donors, and even for long-term donors, it’s not a bad idea to reinforce why your charity’s work is needed.
What’s the takeaway here? It’s important to slather on the praise in your thank you letters. Even go overboard. No donor is going to say, “No, stop. You’re thanking me too much!” But recognize that it’s also important to underline and reinforce your charity’s core reason for being. Praise combined with relevance – that’s the kind of thing that makes a donor want to give again.