The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Thank-You Messages to Donors
Growing up, you might have been asked to write thank-you cards after every birthday or gift-giving holiday. At the time, you may have found it unnecessary. Why should you have to write a follow-up thank-you card after you’ve already said thanks?
The truth is, thank-you messages do more than just show someone you appreciate their generous act (though that’s certainly important). They build stronger relationships, help you stay in touch, and open the door to future opportunities to work with that person.
As a nonprofit, your donors are essential to your success, so it’s important to let them know that. A confirmation email after they donate is good for their records—but by going a step further and sending a thank-you email, letter, or card, you can really make them feel valued. Here are some simple dos and don’ts to keep in mind to make your thank-you messages as meaningful as possible.
Do be personal
Don’t just thank donors for their money—thank them for being the caring, generous individuals they are. Address the person by name and sign it with the name of someone at your organization, whether it’s yourself or one of your leaders. Automated thank-you messages might be better than no thank you at all, but a customized note that feels like it came from a real person can make all the difference when donors are contemplating whether or not to keep supporting you. You can use a template for high-volume communication, but be sure to add those personalized touches so that it doesn’t feel like a template.
Don’t overthink it
Jargon and complicated words can make your thank-you messages feel impersonal and unclear. Don’t worry about needing to sound too sophisticated—this is a simple note designed to show your appreciation and strengthen the relationship, so there’s no need to overthink it. Something that comes from the heart will be much more effective than something that feels overly complex.
Do prioritize new donors
While you should express gratitude to everyone who donates to your nonprofit, pay extra attention to thanking first-time donors. First impressions matter, and receiving a prompt and thoughtful thank-you note might be what converts them from one-time donors into lifelong supporters. Through both your words and actions, make it clear that you value this new relationship and hope to grow it.
Don’t wait too long
The timing of your thank-you messages is important. Send it too soon and it might come across as an automated note—but wait too long and donors may feel that you’re only reaching out to solicit more money. Wait at least a day or two after they make their donation, but don’t let months go by.
Do use emotion
Thank-you messages should stir your donors’ emotions, so don’t be afraid to include heartfelt statements and emphasize that people like them are what makes your important work possible. If they earmarked their donation for a specific purpose, reference it—but even if they didn’t, try to include a few details about where their money is going and the good it will do in the world.
Don’t make it too wordy
While you want to include personalized details, there’s no need to write a novel when crafting thank-you notes. Your donors will appreciate the message, but they probably don’t want to spend a significant amount of time reading it. Keep it short and sweet while hitting all the important points, and don’t feel the need to go into too much detail about your organization or its work. Donors are already familiar with your nonprofit—that’s why they donated!
Do proofread your messages
Typos or grammatical errors can make your thank-you notes feel rushed or careless, so always take the time to proofread your messages before sending them out. For especially important messages, like those to major donors, it may be worth tapping a second pair of eyes, just to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
Don’t immediately ask for more money
Your thank-you message should be the start of something great, not the last time you ever communicate with donors. But while you hope first-time donors will continue supporting your organization, asking for more money right away in your thank-you message can leave donors feeling like their contribution wasn’t valued. There’ll be plenty of time later to send additional requests for support—but if your thank-you message is compelling, the donor may even take the next step on their own.
Make donors feel valued
Your donors probably aren’t looking for praise or recognition, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t feel touched by receiving a thoughtful note. Thank donors big and small—and watch the relationships grow.
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