Posts tagged ‘thank-you letters’

December 15, 2017

Avoid a Big Misstep Now to Raise More Money in 2018

Fundraising can be complex and challenging. We need to consider strategies, tactics, technology, staffing, budget, and so much more.

What if I could help you cut through all of the clutter, so you can avoid a big misstep now and raise more money in 2018?

Well, here you go:

If you want to raise more money, do not fail to send a proper thank-you letter.

It’s pretty simple, right? I think it is. Unfortunately, so many nonprofit organizations mess up this important step in the development process either by not sending a thank-you letter at all or by simply dashing off a letter with little thought. While professional fundraisers expend considerable effort to master the complexities of the fundraising process, many stumble when it comes to something as simple as the thank-you. Don’t be one of those fundraisers.

The thank-you letter is an essential part of a sound stewardship program. Every donor should receive a thank-you communication. It amazes me that some organizations still refuse to send thank-you letters to lower-level donors. Sending a simple receipt is not the same as a thank you.

A wise person once observed that the most important communication a donor will receive from you is the first thank you after the first gift. At that point, many donors will decide whether to ever make another gift to your organization.

So, what are the three essential principles of a great thank-you letter?

1. Immediacy.

The first rule of effective thank-you letters is: Be sure to send them. The corollary is: Be sure to send them immediately, within three to seven days of the gift coming in. If you delay, donors will likely think that you do not need their money or that you do not truly appreciate them. Wise organizations that don’t have the infrastructure to do this will outsource the gift acknowledgment process recognizing that it’s a worthwhile investment.

2. Caring.

Let your donors know you care. You can do this by sending a thank-you letter out on a timely basis. In addition, make sure you spell the donor’s name correctly, acknowledge the amount received, encourage the donor to contact you with any comments or questions, include an appropriate gift receipt and tax information. If your organization hosts events or programs for the public (i.e., a theater company that has a new stage show about to open), take the opportunity to share this information with your donor. These are just some of the things you can do to show you care.

You should also remember that a thank-you letter is not another solicitation piece. So, don’t appear ungrateful by asking for more money or enclosing a gift envelope. I know this is a controversial issue so, for more about this, read “Can a Thank-You Letter Contain an Ask?”

3. Meaningfulness.

Don’t just send a simple thank-you letter that shows you didn’t spend much time thinking about it or drafting it. One way to force yourself to be a bit creative when writing a thank-you letter is to not use the words “thank you” in the first sentence. This prohibition will slow you down and force you to be more thoughtful when writing the letter.

Another tip is to remind donors of the impact their gifts will have. Better yet, tell them how their gift is already being put to good use.

Whenever possible, hand sign the thank-you letters. Even better, hand sign the letters and write a short P.S. This will go a surprisingly long way in building a meaningful relationship with the donor.

For her book Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk reviewed hundreds of thank-you letters. Based on her analysis, she outlined 20 attributes of great thank-you letters. I felt so strongly about her list that I cited it in my own book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

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December 4, 2015

What Can a Steakhouse Teach You about #Fundraising?

Not long ago, I visited The Capital Grille where the chef served more than perfectly prepared steaks. At the end of the meal, he also served up a valuable fundraising lesson, albeit unwittingly.

Capital Grille TY NoteLast week, in America, we celebrated Thanksgiving. This week, we marked #GivingTuesday. Inspired by both of those occasions, I’m going to share my Capital Grille experience with you.

At the end of a wonderful meal, some uneaten steak remained on my plate. There was no way I was going to let the succulent meat go to waste when I could use it to make a perfectly delicious sandwich the next day.

So, I asked our waiter to please wrap it to go.

I didn’t give the matter any further thought as I waited for the package to arrive from the kitchen. Up until this point, everything was pretty much routine.

However, when my to-go package of leftover steak arrived in a nice paper bag, I couldn’t help but notice a note tied to the bag’s handle. The note, hand signed by the chef, read:

We are glad you enjoyed your meal enough to take some home with you. Thank you for dining with us, we appreciate your business.”

I’m more than a half-century old. I dine out quite a bit. In my life, I’ve taken leftovers home on many occasions. However, this was the first time that my leftover package came with a hand-signed thank-you note!

Here are five takeaways for you:

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August 30, 2013

Can You Thank People Too Much?

A few years ago, I served on the board of a large nonprofit organization. During one of the Development Committee meetings I attended, we reviewed the organization’s stewardship policies.

That’s when one of my board colleagues asked, “Does anyone else think we thank people too much?”

Thank You by woodleywonderworks via Flickr and Wordle.netAs the discussion moved forward, I mentioned that, from a practical perspective, I did not think it possible to overly thank folks. I added that, if it was possible to overly thank people, this particular organization was so far away from being in danger of doing so that there was really no point in further discussing the matter. Others agreed with me, and the conversation eventually moved on to other related matters.

Well, it’s finally happened. I found an organization that overly thanks people: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Don’t worry. This is not a political post. I won’t be commenting about the political content of a thank-you email I received recently from Kelly Ward, Executive Director of the DCCC. Instead, I’ll stay focused on the thank you nature of the communication.

By the way, during the last Presidential election, I signed up to receive emails from a number of political organizations and candidates as a way of learning a bit about how these groups use social media. So, please don’t make any assumptions one way or the other about my political orientation.

When I received Ms Ward’s email, it immediately caught my eye. The subject line read:

Michael, thanks!”

 I like that the DCCC used my name in the subject line. And I liked that I was being thanked, though I couldn’t imagine why. While I could see the email was from Kelly Ward, I didn’t know her or who she represented. The combination of the personalized subject line that expressed thanks along with not knowing the sender made me open the email. Above all, I wanted to know what I was being thanked for.

Here’s what the email stated:

Michael —

We asked you to step up and, boy, did you ever!

House Republicans are home this month for August Recess, and activists like you have been holding their Republican Members of Congress accountable in some pretty amazing ways.

We put together a video of some of our favorite displays of activism — you should take a look at what YOU’VE helped accomplish this August:

[link provided to video]

We hope you’re inspired by the video to continue to hold Republicans accountable. Keep up the great work out there!

Thanks,

Kelly Ward

DCCC Executive Director

P.S. Here’s a sneak peek of one of our favorite highlights from the video: In Illinois, Rodney Davis was confronted by a group of concerned voters about ‘ducking’ questions on his ethics investigation. One activist even brought a LIVE duck!” [link provided to the video]”

Ok, here’s where it really gets interesting. While the DCCC wrote to thank me for my activism, specifically my actions to hold Republican members of Congress accountable, I never did what they were thanking me for. I never even donated money to the DCCC to help pay for the activism of others

As a result of the bizarre email from the DCCC, I’ve reached the conclusion that you can indeed over thank someone.

If you thank people for something they really did not do, you’re wrongly thanking them. Instead of showing appreciation, you’re being manipulative, gratuitous, lazy, or all of the above. Reserve your thank-you messages for expressions of real gratitude:

  • Thank people for giving their time.
  • Thank people for donating.
  • Thank people for demonstrating that they care.
  • Thank people for an inquiry.
  • Thank people for attending an event or program.
  • Thank people for referring others to the organization.

You get the idea. Just be sure you don’t behave like the DCCC. Don’t thank folks for what they have not done. If you do, you’ll only end up diluting the value of real expressions of appreciation.

For your donors, your organization should have a donor recognition policy that outlines how supporters at various levels will be thanked and recognized for their support. Just remember that some donors might not want the recognition you’re offering. For example, some donors may wish to give anonymously. In that case, thanking these people by name in your annual report would be inappropriate. Always remember to be donor centered.

To avoid the uncommon risk of over thanking people:

  • Do not thank folks for what they have not done.
  • Do not thank folks publicly if they want to remain anonymous.
  • Do not thank folks in ways they have told you they won’t appreciate.

When you do thank people, be personal, warm, and sincere.

For more information about showing gratitude effectively, see my previous posts on the subject:

What Can Your Nonprofit Learn from a Fortune Cookie?

Stewardship: More than a Thank-You?

Can a Thank-You Letter Contain an Ask?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

July 15, 2011

Can a Thank-You Letter Contain an Ask?

A thank-you letter to a donor can certainly contain an ask for another gift along with a response envelope. However, should it?

NO!!!

This is not just my opinion. Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, also feels that a thank-you letter should be a demonstration of appreciation and not another solicitation.

Over the past few months, on listserves and LinkedIn Groups, there have been a number of discussions on the subject of the appropriateness of including an ask in a thank-you letter. Some development folks say that they generate a number of additional gifts by putting an ask in their thank-you letters or, more passively, simply putting a business reply envelope in with the thank-you letter. However, if two percent (not necessarily an actual result) of thank-you letter recipients respond with an additional gift, that means 98 percent do not respond. And, the questions must be asked: How many of the 98 percent are put-off by the ask in the thank-you? How many will decide never to give to the organization again? How many will decide to give again, but will give less? While a long-term study of donor giving and retention, with a control group and test group, is the only way to determine the impact of a thank-you/ask letter for your organization, most organizations will not or cannot conduct such a test. So, in the absence of such test data, the default position for nonprofit organizations should be to use thank-you letters to simply thank donors.

Think about it. What message would you be sending if you include an ask in a thank-you letter? I think the message would be, “Thank you for your donation. It was not enough. So, I’m enclosing an envelope so you can give us more money. You know, the money you should have given us in the first place if you weren’t such a tightwad.” I don’t think that’s the way to build a long-term relationship with donors.

Burk reviewed hundreds of thank-you letters for her book in which she outlined 20 attributes of great thank-you letters. I felt so strongly about her list that I cited it in my own book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

  1. The letter is a real letter, not a pre-printed card.
  2. It is personally addressed.
  3. It has a personal salutation (no “Dear Donor” or “Dear Friend”).
  4. It is personally signed.
  5. It is personally signed by someone from the highest ranks of the organization.
  6. It makes specific reference to the intended use of the funds.
  7. It indicates approximately when the donor will receive an update on the program being funded.
  8. It includes the name and phone number of a staff person whom the donor can contact at any time or an invitation to contact the letter writer directly.
  9. It does not ask for another gift.
  10. It does not ask the donor to do anything (like complete an enclosed survey, for example).
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