Your Christian nonprofit team has the privilege and responsibility to be thankful. Scripture is clear that we are to be thankful to God. Likewise, numerous passages demonstrate the significance of gratitude in all relationships. Even so, many of us can easily relate to Jesus when he questioned, “Where are the other nine?” He healed ten lepers, and only one came back to say thank you. This narrative is a popular children’s story because it teaches so clearly the value of a timely, heartfelt thank you.
As you steward the resources entrusted to your organization, one of the most important skills you can cultivate is how to write thank you notes to donors. It is fitting to affirm your donors for the vital role they play in enabling your organization to further its mission. There are several things to keep in mind when writing thank you notes to donors.
In today’s world of teeming email inboxes, a handwritten note garners more attention and creates a moment with your donor. It greatly increases the likelihood that your note will be read—and remembered. Long before electronic giving, there was wisdom in the saying, “If they took the time to write a check and mail it, then I can take the time to write a thank you note and mail it.” One hybrid approach to writing thank you notes to donors is to include a handwritten note on a form letter or standard gift acknowledgment to be mailed.
Whenever possible, make the note personal. Great thank you notes to donors are personalized enough that you couldn’t write the exact same thing to just anyone. Try to include something that makes your donor feel known. One helpful practice is to keep notes in your CRM to track conversations, circumstances, or important life events. You can refer to these notes to guide you in writing personalized thank you notes to donors. Did you see them at a recent event? Mention something from that context that they can relate to simply because they were there. In the same way, you could refer to a recent event to make an impact statement that personalizes the fruit of their giving when you do not know the donor personally.
When writing thank you notes to donors, you should aim to be timely in your response. In determining timeliness, it can be worthwhile to consider the method of the donor’s gift. If they made a gift online, they should have received a standard email confirmation. On the other hand, if they directed a distribution from a Donor Advised Fund (DAF), the donor will not know your organization received it until they receive some type of acknowledgment. Furthermore, distributions from DAFs are not tax-deductible, so they are excluded from your organization’s standard protocol for generating tax letters. Be diligent in letting the donor know that their gift was received and appreciated. Good, old-fashioned checks in the mail also deserve prompt acknowledgment. Remember the hybrid approach to writing great thank you notes to donors and consider including a handwritten note on routine gift receipts.
Another meaningful practice for writing thank you notes to donors is to rotate sending notes to monthly supporters so that in a year’s time, they will receive at least one personal note from someone at your organization. This rotation is another helpful item to track in your CRM. Personalized thank you notes to monthly supporters are great opportunities to include impact statements that emphasize the ongoing needs being met by your organization’s mission.
Most often your team will have been working with a donor to design a gift that meets the donor’s goals. You may have opportunities throughout the process to express gratitude, but you should still consider how to write thank you notes to donors of planned gifts. Be sure to follow up with a personalized note once the planned gift is funded. Finally, when you secure a planned gift for your organization, you have a unique opportunity to express thanks with every distribution to the donor as income beneficiary.
One last characteristic of great thank you notes to donors is that they are genuine. Like the one leper who came back to Jesus praising God in a loud voice, be thankful to God first. Let the reality of his generosity inform your message. Reflect on his faithfulness as you write genuine words of thanks to those who partner with your organization in its mission.