Anatomy of a Great Donor Acknowledgement Letter

thank_you_noteMany nonprofits view the thank you letter as no more than a tax receipt. Smart nonprofits, however, recognize the donor acknowledgement letter as a critical component of the stewardship phase of the fundraising lifecycle. A well-written letter will not only express gratitude but can serve as an opportunity to create an even greater affinity and appreciation for your organization’s mission. Here we address the components of a great donor thank you letter.

Timeliness
Send your donor an acknowledgement letter as close to the date of their donation as possible. Donors who are thanked in a timely manner will feel appreciated and be reminded of your nonprofit, which will make them more likely to give again in a shorter timeframe.

Gratitude
The most important part of your thank you letter should be the thank you. While this may seem obvious, many donor acknowledgement letters read like a tax receipt or, conversely, use flowery phrases and elaborate wording. Opt instead for a simple statement of gratitude, as if you were thanking the donor in person.

Donation Details
Include a sentence or two stating your nonprofit status (e.g. 501(c)(3)), tax ID number, the amount of their donation, and the portion of that donation that’s tax deductible. Consult IRS charitable contribution guidelines if you have questions about deductibility.

Mission
State your mission clearly and succinctly. The more you reiterate the function of your nonprofit, the more likely your donor will internalize it and, hopefully, repeat it to others. And, the more your donor understands what your group does, the greater the potential for a stronger connection.

Results
Donors want to know how their money is being used. If the donation was in response to a specific ask, provide details on the program or service their funds are supporting. If the donation was unrestricted, provide an overview of the group’s recent accomplishments. Including photos, statistics, and quotes in the body of the letter are all very effective ways to demonstrate results. Your nonprofit is dynamic and your donor acknowledgement letter should reflect forward motion. Change it up frequently. Update your results regularly.

Personalize
To further establish a connection with the donor, handwrite a quick note on the printed letter. For example, if you met the donor at a fundraising event, a simple “It was nice to meet you last Tuesday!” will make them know you remembered your interaction.

Even if you send an automated receipt for online donations, you should send a letter as well or, if you have the capability, customize your electronic receipt with the characteristics above. And remember, letters should never take the place of face-to-face meetings or telephone calls, especially for larger donations.

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