Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nuts and Bolts of Thanking Your Donors

Your donor's experience starts with a gift and continues along with a thank you, multiple thank yous and expressions of gratitude for them. Then we tell them the impact. But first things first. Do your donor thank yous seem like a never-ending cadre of letters that seem like Mad Libs? Let's look at this example below:

Is this your donor thank you experience? Do all of your letters sound the same? When's the last time you spruced them up? These letters can make an organization seem mechanical, unfeeling and not understanding of a donor's core needs. It's true that any thank you note is better than nothing, but what does yours say about you? Does it make the donor the hero or brag about the organization? Thank yous are there to build the relationship, does yours inspire and make people feel closer to your organization? I would make some bets that this might not be the case.

How do we change this culture? First, we put in a system that doesn't make thanking onerous. Streamlining the process is the first step. Thanking people is one of the great joys of my life. When you write your letters, think, does this matter or is it white noise to my donors? Is the intent of this letter to express gratitude or am I trying to shove information and other things into the letter? You see a thank you has a simple purpose, don't cloud that with things you think they want to know. I can't tell you how many university thank you letters in the spring mention that commencement is coming. Yes, it happens every year so that's not new information, nor is it particularly interesting. The whole purpose of a university is to graduate students, why is commencement news?

Here are some of my best tips for writing acknowledgment letters that get to the heart:

  • Use words that evoke emotion: loyalty, consistent, humble, joy, etc
  • Have a personality, don't sound so clinical
  • Use action verbs, avoid any form of the verb "to be"
  • Start with a quote or hook sentence to draw the reader in
  • Keep it short! Think one screen or less
  • Think outside of the one page letter- notecards, monarch letterhead, postcards!
  • Be sincere, your only purpose is to express gratitude, not give info, ask for more, invite etc etc 
  • Use the word "you" more than "we"
I hope these quick tips and questions will help you inspire the readers of your thank you letters and notes. Have questions? Share your success below and tell us your dilemmas.

Thank you for reading.



  1. Lynne-

    Great post!

    Do you have any fantastic thank you letter examples in your Acknowledgements Swap (or somewhere else) that you could share?


  2. This is a great post Lynne. Thank you for the quick tips!


  3. I second Kevin's comment and request. Our acknowledgements are in need of a makeover and any samples would be greatly appreciated!


  4. Kevin (and others),
    Lynne has four years of great acknowledgments to browse and "steal" ideas from here:!acknowledgement-swap/c1ve

  5. Love your blogs, each and every time!