Time and time again nonprofits make the mistake of not bothering to thank someone for a gift…

I have been in the Direct Response business for over 40 years and have reviewed many clients thank you direct mail programs. More than I can recall I have discovered that either they did not have a “Thank You” program at all (especially for small gifts) or they had a very generic, impersonal Thank You. These “thank you’s” either failed to mention the program that the donor was supporting or even forgot to mention the donor’s name. Sending a prompt and personal “Thank You” letter for every donation is essential in non-profit direct mail fundraising and donor conversion.

In fact, one can say it is almost required by law. “IRS regulations require that before a donor claims a tax deduction for a charitable contribution, the donor must have a bank record or a written communication from the charitable nonprofit documenting the contribution.” This requirement can be fulfilled, and should, by sending the donor a direct mail thank you letter.

Key Characteristics of a Thank You Letter

Here are some of the key characteristics for any thank you letter:

  1. Personalization.
  2. Donation Amount.
  3. Donation Date.
  4. Mention of what they gave to.
  5. An additional Ask.

The first 4 are basic: All your donation thank you letters should be sent promptly after the donation is received (within a week or so). It should include the donor’s name and the amount given. It should also mention the date the gift was received and what they sent their money for and how it is going to be used. These are absolute basics of any direct mail fundraising program.

So rather then, “Thank you for your support of organization XYZ,” a donation thank you letter should read, “Thank you John for your gift of $50 received on X Date towards a new roof for our Orphanage.”

Another Ask in Donation Thank You Letters

No surprises there, but what is often forgotten is another ask. This may seem greedy but I can assure you it’s not. The most likely time for someone to give a second gift is soon after they have given a first gift. Getting a second gift is essential in turning that first-time donor into a consistent supporter of your organization. And “if you want a donor to make a second gift to your non-profit, you have to ask.” There is no better time to ask than after receiving a gift.

We often include ours in the P.S. of the “Thank You” letter. (Remember, everybody always reads the P.S.) The P.S. might say something like, “If this is a good time for you to consider another gift to our XYZ organization, please complete the reply coupon below to send in your donation of $50.” (Here you should mention the amount of their most recent gift.)

We have found, without exception, that for every client for whom we’ve deployed a “Thank You” program like this, it has brought in more money than it cost.

Your “Thank You” program in the past may have been a cost item on your budget – it costs more than it brought in. But with this program, you transform the “Thank You” program into a positive net income generator, where the donations coming in exceed the cost of doing the thank you mailings, even when you’ve upgraded the quality of those mailings.

We have found that a ”Thank You” program that effectively, professionally and skillfully expresses gratitude to the donor for the specific appeal that they contributed to, and asks if it’s a good time for another gift is very appealing to the donor. They don’t see a request for a second donation as greedy, rather they see it as an opportunity to give to a program and organization they obviously favor.

How can a thank you letter help you create multi-chanell donors?

In this day and age most non-profits get new donors who give their first gift online. Many have automatic thank you emails set up to acknowledge that gift. Add in a direct mail thank you letter which begins to start a conversation with a donor offline. This new donor may continue to contribute soley online but more likely than not some of these new donors will respond via direct mail. Some may continue to donate online but still appreciate the direct mail and it may in fact spur them to ake those online donations. So in addition tot hat automated email I reccomend you also send a direct mail thank you letter to online donors. 

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