“On behalf of our organization, we would like to thank you for your donation!”
If you think this is the focus of your year-end thank you letter, then you’ve got it all wrong.
An end-of-year thank you letter is sent to donors to show how much you appreciate their support. A generic, uninspiring copy that looks like it was written by a robot (as above) doesn’t do that at all.
Your thank you letter is an opportunity to woo your donors with your gratitude and induce that warm, fuzzy feeling that drives them to give more. Don’t let it go to waste with boilerplate statements. Use the insights from this post to write the perfect year-end thank you letter to donors.
Why is a year-end thank you letter important?
We know that a thank you letter is a way to show your appreciation to the donor. But how does that help you? Here’s how:
- Retains donors: A personalized thank you can make first-time donors 4X more likely to donate again. Therefore a thank you letter can help you boost donor retention.
- Serves as a reminder: For donors who donated and may not plan to give again, a thank you letter can serve as a physical reminder about your organization and its work. This, in turn, would drive them to give again.
- Strengthens bonds: Sending a personalized thank you letter requires effort. Putting in this effort leaves a positive impression on your donors. This, in turn, increases their affinity towards you, thus making the bond stronger.
Needless to say, a year-end thank you letter helps you build a better relationship that ultimately boosts your future fundraising efforts.
Critical elements of a year-end thank you letter
While the design and copy of a thank you letter are only limited by your creativity, there are a few elements that remain vital. Let’s see what they are with the help of an example.
Here’s a thank you letter sent by the Glide Foundation in response to a donation.
Let’s go over each component of the letter.
1. Personalized greeting
Every year-end thank you letter should start off with a greeting that addresses the recipient by name. The greeting is typically the first thing a reader sees, and you should personalize to:
- Grab their attention and keep them reading on. When addressed by name, they know the letter is important.
- Set a positive, comfortable tone for the whole letter.
- Leave a positive impression about how you’ve crafted the letter, especially for them.
To personalize it even further, you can add a “preferred name” field in your donation forms and use that in your thank you letter.
2. Specific thank you
After greeting the reader, get straight to the point, and thank them for their gift. However, make sure that you thank them for the specific amount they gave. This ensures that:
- It doesn’t seem like a generic auto-generated thank you letter sent out to donors.
- Donors know that their gift (no matter the amount) is seen and appreciated.
Segmenting your lists and merging the relevant tags while crafting the thank you letter can make this (and the greeting too) easier.
3. Summary of your mission
Many of your donors may have given “forget gifts*” and these people typically don’t return to give again. Including a few sentences of your mission helps:
- Remind people what you’re trying to accomplish and why you need their support.
- Deepen their interest in the cause and in driving change rather than just donating.
A plain mission summary, however, won’t get you very far. Make sure that you leverage a storytelling approach with relatable beneficiaries to get the readers more invested.
Forget gifts are gifts given so people can emotionally disengage from a problem. Rather than giving to bring change, donors are motivated to give because it means they don’t need to worry about an issue anymore.
Your work isn’t a priority for them, which is why they may give smaller amounts and less frequently (typically just once). For more insights, check out this post: Focused and forget gifts
4. The impact
While the mission summary is for the “forget gift donors”, the impact is for the others who are deeply interested to know how they helped. Adding details on the specific impact the donation made helps:
- Reduces attrition– Failure to communicate the campaign results is one of the top reasons why donors leave.
- Motivates them to give again– Knowing that their donations make an impact will encourage them to give again and even get others to donate.
If it’s too early to convey the exact impact, letting them know what you will achieve later will also do. Make sure to keep them updated on the impact and let them know when you accomplish what you planned.
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Finally, sign off by closing the thank you letter appropriately. It’s recommended to sign off as an individual rather than an organization because:
- A thank you letter from a person feels more personal and appreciative.
- People respond better to people. So the next time you send a donation letter, they would be more likely to read and respond to it.
Generally, it’s good practice to send the thank you letter from a top-ranking official, like a director. However, if you’re pressed for time, volunteers could send the letters out, too, preferably to smaller donors.
Keep in mind that it is essential to have all these elements in your thank you letter. However, how you craft the specifics is up to you.
Here’s a sample year-end thank you letter template for your reference.
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Year-end thank you letter best practices
You can use certain best practices to guide your imagination when crafting appreciation letters for your donors. These include:
- Make the letter about the donor, not you!
- Avoid using generic content and go for specific details.
- Add a personal handwritten note.
- Include a powerful postscript.
- Time it right.
Let’s look at each of them in detail.
1. Make the letter about the donor, not you!
Most organizations tend to craft appreciation letters that talk about their actions. What they did, what they achieved, what do they plan to do next, etc. Reading such a letter makes the reader feel meh. Not bad, just meh!
When a donor gives, they are happy and motivated. They feel like they are part of the solution. If you want to get them to give again, you need to keep this motivation and happiness at the same level.
That is achieved by using donor-centric language.
Rather than focusing on what you are accomplishing, make the donor the hero. Use phrases like:
- “You made it possible.”
- “Your generosity has helped us do this.”
- “Your gift was needed, and you’re a big deal for us.”
- “We couldn’t do it without you.”
Keep in mind; your year-end thank you letter should be to your donor, about your donor.
2. Avoid using generic content in appreciation letters and focus on specific details
An appreciation letter is an opportunity to put a smile on your donors’ faces. But, when you start your letters with generic sentences like “Thank you for your support” or “Thank you for your gift”, you put donors to sleep. Instead, personally congratulate your contacts for all their efforts by putting the spotlight on the impact they made happen.
Spice up the copy with more compelling and dopamine-inducing phrases like:
- “John will go to sleep tonight with a full tummy because you cared.”
- “Because of your gift, the water Fatima drinks today will not make her sick.”
- “Julia’s world has become more colorful because you helped her see.”
Such copies can hook the donor better and get them to continue reading the letter.
3. Add a personal handwritten note
A handwritten note goes the extra mile in making your letter more personal. It shows the lengths you went to appreciate the donor and how much you value your relationship. Such a personal touch with specific details about their contributions can bring that value to the table.
Moreover, it stands out from the rest of the letters people may receive, thereby keeping you fresh in their minds and boosting loyalty.
The note doesn’t have to be too detailed. It can be something as simple as:
- “I genuinely appreciate the donation you made to our campaign.”
- “It’s an honor to write to such a generous person.”
- “Thank you for being a part of the family.”
You can add these notes at the end of the letter or wherever you have space.
4. Include a powerful postscript in your year-end thank you letter
The postscript of your year-end thank you letter is one part you can be confident about donors reading.
According to eye-motion studies, the postscript or P.S. is often the first thing a recipient reads after scanning for their name in a letter.
So rather than leaving it as an afterthought, leverage the P.S to get them more closely involved with your organization. You can end with statements like:
- “P.S. We’d love to feature your testimonial in a story. Please write back to us if you’re interested.” – You can use the testimonial in your nurturing emails.
- “P.S. We’re sure you’ll know more amazing people who would also love to support our cause. Text SUPPORTER to 555055 to receive a message that you can share with your friends.” – You can set up a text message autoresponder to reply with a web page link with more details.
- “P.S. We’d love to get your feedback on things and if there’s anything else we can do. Text SURVEY to 555055.” – You could set up an automated text-survey to collect data and their feedback.
The idea here is to get donors more invested in your organization, which in turn drives them to support you regularly. However, don’t ask for another gift just yet.
5. Time your appreciation letters right
Research has shown that thanking donors within 48 hours makes them four times more likely to give again. This is especially true for first-time donors.
However, sending a personalized end-of-year thank you letter within this duration would be almost impossible. Here’s how you can work around that:
- Send them a brief thank you message that also mentions the letter you’ll send later. You can send this over email, text, or even a quick thank you call.
- Mail the appreciation letter after sending the message, preferably within a week.
Thanking them immediately will buy you some time to send a more personalized thank you letter. Moreover, notifying them about the letter will also increase their chances of opening and reading it.
How should you send the first thank you message?
While the first thank you message after the donation may not be the primary one, it still has to be personalized. A generic, automated message won’t work.
Why texts? For the following reasons:
- Texts are personal and direct. They won’t get lost in the digital noise, unlike emails.
- They have a 98% open rate. Therefore, you can be sure that donors will read the message.
Alternatively, even a quick thank-you call to donors would do very well if you have the resources.
Hopefully, the tips and letter templates above inspired your imagination to craft a remarkable year-end thank you letter for your donors.
But keep in mind, the struggle for retention begins as soon as you receive a gift, and this letter is just one aspect of it.
Bloomerang’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Adrian Sargeant emphasizes that 2-3 touches in the first 90 days after the gift arrives drastically improves the donor retention rate. So your thank you letter could be one touch, and the donor acknowledgment letter (with a charismatic copy) could be another.
However, the challenge with both is that it takes time to draft these letters and reach the recipient. So your third touch could be something quick and extremely personal, like a phone call immediately after the gift is made.
This could be a buffer that would buy you time till your letters are sent. To nail your thank you call, all you need is a call center software (to make the call) and an impeccable script. Here’s a post that can help you with that: Donor Thank You Calls: Writing the Perfect Script.
Featured image source: Kelly Sikkema