Recently I made a donation to a local arts organization.
I’m pleased to say that, yes, contrary to the statistics, I did receive a thank you letter.
Granted it arrived approximately four weeks after the fact.
But I did receive one.
Sadly it was the standard thank you letter.
The kind that begins: “Dear Ms. Grow (makes me feel like my grandmother): Thank you for supporting XYZ with your gift of $XX. We are delighted to welcome you to our esteemed group of friends and supporters. We look forward … We greatly appreciate your support of our mission to …”
In other words the kind of letter that makes you think “Oh, they got my check” midway into the second paragraph and toss it in with your tax papers until next January.
A lot of folk think that “donor-centered fundraising” is just another buzz word in the nonprofit world.
I would venture to say that donor-centered fundraising is the only legitimate – I would go so far as to say honest – method to long-term, sustainable funding.
What we fundraisers often forget is that the “who is so much more important than the what.”
We’ll spend hours crafting our mission statement or our organization’s story – without giving the slightest thought to the person who is reading it!
One of the most important things you can learn is how to get “into” the mind of your donor.
Think about it.
- Over $308 BILLION was given in charitable donations in 2008 – and 75% of those dollars came from individuals
- On average for every six new donors an organization acquires, it loses five existing donors
- For every $6 raised, more than $6 was lost due to donor attrition
If you’re looking for long-term, sustainable funding, doesn’t it pay to give more than lip service to your thank you letters? After all, your organization’s thank you after your donor’s first gift sets the stage for future gifts!
Here’s a sample thank you letter I wrote quite a few years ago for an inner city educational organization and why it’s worth adapting:
Dear First Name:
Thanks to you, Felicia is busy planning her future.
This year she’ll be graduating from St. Joseph’s University – the first in her family to graduate college. She’s applied to nine medical schools with plans on becoming a pediatrician.
In 2001 when Felicia began the XYZ program, thoughts of becoming a doctor had never entered her head. Her parents had arrived in the United States from Jamaica. “They’ve supported me in everything I’ve ever wanted to do,” she says, “but they’ve never been to college.”
Your gift of $XXX has helped to buy the books, pay the teachers’ stipends and grow our summer programming so that kids like Felicia have a chance.
We look forward to sharing the program’s success with you in our quarterly newsletter. In the meantime, if you would like to schedule a visit to see, firsthand, the difference your gift is making, please contact Mary Development at 555.555.5555. Our sincere thanks for your support throughout the years.
John Q. Boardmember, President
First off, the letter starts out with a strong opening focusing on the donor. Because of YOU!
Secondly, it tells a story and tells the reader exactly what you’ll be doing with their donation.
Third, the letter tells the reader when they can expect to hear from you and offers a phone number and a contact person.
Fourth, the donor’s loyalty is acknowledged.
Finally, it’s signed by someone from the highest ranks of the organization.
And the finishing touch was an enclosed thank you letter direct from one of our students, derived from a selection of hand-written notes compiled during one rainy summer day when we had given the kids the project of writing thank you’s to all of the people who made their opportunity possible. The best were printed up.
For more on how to craft the perfect thank you letter – and why you should – download the free report created from the call I did last year with donor retention expert Lisa Sargent..
Be sure to also check out Lisa’s thank you letter clinic at www.sofii.org.