If you’re like most nonprofit folks, you give little thought to your Thank-You letter.

At some point, you wrote the letter, and now you use it for every donor, every time.  You know it isn’t the greatest, but you aren’t sure how to make it better, and you certainly don’t have time to think through it.

Sound familiar?

Then let me give you a wake-up call.  Your Thank-You letter is one of the most important pieces of communication you have with your donors.  Done well, it increases trust and builds relationship.  Not only does it let the donor know you received their gift and are grateful for it, but it send the message to the donor that you are organized and professional.

If you use the same old boring, stale letter, it’s time to take it to the next level.  It’s time to create a Thank-You letter that will stand out from all the other drivel your donor receives. Here are a few tips for creating a next-level Thank-You letter.

1. Keep the letter short but powerful. This is not the time to go on and on about something happening in your organization.  Stay focused on the donor and focused on the gift.  Use your newsletter or another tool to promote your events and other activities.

2. Use the word “you” early and often.  It’s the sweetest word to a donor’s ears and it will help you stay focused on the donor.  Use it in the first sentence then see if you can use “you” in every paragraph in the letter.

3.  Relate your Thank-You letter to the Ask. Instead of sending out a generic letter, customize your Thank-You letter to the specific Ask that was used to generate the gift.  If a gift comes to you from an appeal you sent out, make sure your Thank-You letter refers back to the story or the text in the appeal.  If a gift is given at an event, reference the event and share how much was raised at the event.

You may need to write several different letters that can be used for whatever you have going on.  For instance, you may want to write one letter for a special event you are working on, another one for monthly givers, and another one for donors who respond to your newsletter.  Relating the Thank-You letter back to the ask is a way to let your donors know you are paying attention and that you are organized enough to use their money they way you said you would.Loyalty Level Conceptual Meter

4.  Tell the donor how you will use their money. This is critical.  Make sure the donor knows how you plan to use the donation he or she just sent you. Text like “Your gift will ensure that 15 children will go to summer camp for one week” makes the process of donating more real and tangible to the donor.  They can envision 15 kids going to camp for a week and it helps create a bigger feeling of satisfaction for the donor.

5.  Include an offer to tour your facility or program site. Always include in your letter an offer for a guided tour of your facility or program site (if appropriate).  You may never have anyone take you up on this, but they will remember that you offered.  You will probably get a few people who want to visit you.  Seeing firsthand the work that you do may make all the difference in the world to a particular donor.  It can also mean the difference in an average size gift and a major gift.

I remember one particular donor who came for a tour of my organization with his wife.  They had always been good givers and usually gave about $10,000 a year.  They were so impressed by the tour that they wrote a check on the spot for an additional $15,000!

I encourage you to take the time this holiday season to have a fresh look at your Thank-You letter and do what you can to spruce it up and take it to the next level.  I think you’ll be very pleased with the results!

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