WHY You Must Send Thank-You
Missing Link in
by Karen Zapp
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I firmly believe thank-you letters ought to be promptly sent
donors. Its a matter of less-than-common courtesy. I say less-than-common
because common courtesy just isnt all that common anymore,
The good news is by doing this youll stand out from the crowd. Plus youll
garner more of your donors attention. In my article Fundraising Courtesy I
outline the elements of a solid thank-you letter along with other tips for a
Now back to WHY you should send thank-you letters. In addition to being
the polite thing to do, donors expect it. And when you dont do what
they expect especially something they think you should do youre
creating problems for yourself and your long term fundraising results.
Countless studies, focus groups, surveys, etc. consistently reveal essentially
all donors want their gift acknowledged. And if you dont send a special
letter just to say thanks, youll change the perception donors have of you
in a less than favorable way.
- Youll be perceived as ungrateful: They
certainly cashed my check fast enough. But I guess it didnt
mean enough to send a simple thank-you note.
- Youll be perceived as self-centered: All
they care about is getting my money. They could care less about
- Youll be perceived as disorganized and inefficient: I
sent them money 2 months ago and just now received a thank you!
Meanwhile I received another letter asking for money pretty darn
quick . . . in fact it was within a couple weeks of sending in
my check. I dont know. If theyre that disorganized
I wonder how well theyre spending my money. Should I give
- Youll be responded to less warmly in
the future: When I receive a thank-you I know my
check arrived safely; I know they care about me; and well, I
like getting a thank-you note. These folks didnt do that
and its so simple to do. Thats the last check theyll
get from me!
So HOW do you write a strong thank you letter?
After reading just the first part of this article you know WHY these letters are vitally important to your nonprofit's overall success. If you're ready for some in-depth "how-to" guidance on writing a stronger acknowledgement letter - including examples of copy to use - then Click Here for the ZAPP GUIDE to Thank You Letters.
If youre still not convinced how important this is to your overall fundraising
strategy, testing has proven time and again that ...
- You get better response in follow-on
appeals if you send a thank-you for each gift received.
- Thank-you letters strengthen donor
- And related to number 2, theyre
critical to donor cultivation because they build long-term
I expect youve heard it before:
It costs far less to retain a donor than to acquire a brand
new one. Saying thank-you is not only polite, but it nurtures
the precious relationship you have with your donors. And as number 1 suggests,
its another critical step in getting a subsequent gift.
Another reason worth mentioning is the thank-you letter serves as a receipt
for your donors gift. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adjusts its
requirements from time to time so check with your advisors, but as of this
writing: All 501(c)(3)
organizations must send written letters for all gifts of $75 or more and
when offering a substantial premium or incentive for giving.
And donors who give $250 or more must obtain a written document from the
charity to qualify for a tax deduction. So when you send a thank-you note
the amount, youre helping your donor because they dont have to request
it. Youve not only thanked them, youve done them a favor.
Whether asking savvy nonprofits or seasoned consultants, they all agree that speed
is essential. In a perfect world the thank-you letter goes
out within a day of receiving the gift. At worst send it within
If you only send out thank-you letters every couple weeks or monthly you
run afoul of donor goodwill. A costly mistake. The relationship deteriorates,
isnt as high as it could be, and your cash flow is delayed.
Sending these letters certainly costs money. But not sending them will cost
you more money. Nonetheless, if youre in a severe budget dilemma, examine your
file. Whats your average gift size? One source says if its around
ten bucks then thank everyone. If its $15 or higher it may not
be cost-effective to recognize the $5 and $8 donors. Analyze this very, very
Thank you letters are your most important donor cultivation tool . . . and they'll also help make your fundraising more efficient — more cost effective.
I spelled out "WHY" thank you letters are an essential tool for your nonprofit in this article. And in the ZAPP GUIDE to Thank You Letters I spell out "HOW" to write acknowledgement letters in detail — including an actual sample letter and other copy you can use.
Theres considerable debate over whether to include a soft ask
in your thank-you letter. Some experts say yes and others say no. I prefer that you don't include any kind of an "ask" but the best answer is to test it.
So if you dont have a finely honed system in place for donor acknowledgement, I
strongly recommend you make it a priority to get one immediately.
Skip it and youre missing a link a
vital link in the fundraising chain.
History dictates youll receive more revenue as
a direct result of these letters.
If you would like more specifics on what to include in your thank-you letter,
please read my article Fundraising Courtesy.
Finally, I'd be happy to write a thank you letter for you. Or perhaps you prefer to have me critique a letter you've already written. Just drop me a line and we'll take it from there.
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