A few days ago I actually typed these words in an email to a former colleague:
“I get downright preachy about effective thank you letters.”
Hmmm…upon reflection, I realized there were a couple of serious issues with this:
· I was pitching a luncheon presentation and ‘preachy’ is probably not a great descriptive for a positive and entertaining learning experience.
· It’s been a long time since I wrote a rant about Thank You letters.
OK…so I can’t do much about the first point. But I can pull out my soapbox and get back on it…
Here’s a Fundraising Pharmacy formula for effective thank you letters:
1. Choose a great signatory – The best signatory may not be the Board Chair or President. It may even be you! The signatory should convey their passion for the work that your charity does and be able to speak about how the donor’s gift will impact that work. And this letter must only be signed by one person (no co-signing or generic signatures like ‘the Board’).
2. Write it how you would say it – It always amazes me that people who are so warm and genuine in person feel the need to be formal and stiff in their writing. I find it very helpful to imagine I was meeting the donor at an event and then jot down what I would say to them face-to-face. It always surprises me how much material this gets me!
3. Keep it personal – Throw in a micro-anecdote to draw your donor into the world of the signatory. Did the person signing the thank you letter just walk past a room where program staff are busy helping people? Maybe they walk past a photo of the founder every day? Build a thank you around that experience and their feelings.
4. Don’t wait for the Annual Report – The number one thing donors want from you is to know how their gifts make a difference. So, make sure you update them in the thank you letter. You just have to find a success you can report that relates to the campaign/appeal the donor gave to. EG: the equipment you raised funds for has been purchased and will arrive in a few weeks; you are set to begin renovations to the program space that needed improvements.
5. Give them your digits – If you want to see this donor again, you are going to have to give them your phone number. Email, too. Don’t try to shuffle them off to the switchboard, general reception line or info@ email address. Give them the signatory’s direct line and actual email address. Invite them to call anytime for any reason. If your signatory is not comfortable with this, choose another signatory. A few donors may call, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll receive more than a few calls over the course of a year. But extending the invitation will help build trust.
Here’s your chance to seize the opportunity to transform an obligatory task into a powerful and personal connection with your donors! And this formula should get you well on your way to healthier donor relationships.
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