When a donor makes a gift, it should be obvious to send them an acknowledgement quickly. But why? Well, it’s the right thing to do! It also gives the donor confidence by letting them know you did receive their gift and it reminds them why your organization is so important.  It lets them know they made a wise investment!

There are many great ways to say thank you to a donor. First and most important, the thank you letter. Like a broken record, we’re going to tell you that you should have that letter in the mail within 48 business hours of receiving the gift.

What should you include in the thank you letter?

  • Include a story about something exciting happening through your organization’s mission because of donations received. This gives the donor an idea of how the donation might be used in the future.
  • If it’s the first time the donor is making a gift to your organization, if they are a returning lapsed donor, or they made a significant increase, make note of it.
  • Provide contact information, preferably for someone in your development office, as an easy point of reference if needed.
  • Add a P.S. line with an additional call to action to keep the donor engaged: Sign up for eNews, attend a tour, sign up for a volunteer orientation, follow us on social media, etc.
  • IRS Language stating the amount of the gift received, the date, and the value of goods received only, which is usually $0. You are NOT tax advisors, so don’t overthink this part.
  • A live signature – no electronic images!

When thinking through your acknowledgement process, it can be helpful to develop a matrix based on the gift received. This matrix can include strategies for thanking different donors in different ways. Some strategies include a general letter, a handwritten note on a letter, a phone call from staff, or a phone call from the executive director – just to name a few. Think about how you might thank each of these donors differently:

  • First time donor under $100
  • First time donor over $100
  • First time donor over $1,000
  • Regular donor that sends in $100 at year end every December 31
  • Regular donor that sends in $1,500 every spring “just because”
  • Monthly donor
  • A donor that reaches a giving milestone: 5 years of gifts in a row or $1,000 in cumulative giving, for example

Capital Campaign Recognition

The right strategy for acknowledging donors is not just limited to your annual fund donors.  A capital campaign often comes with naming opportunities such as named rooms or space, bricks, tiles, or a donor wall or display. The key to making a donor happy during a permanent naming installation? Communication! Never assume you know what a donor wants their named space to reflect. Even if you ask them on a pledge form to indicate how they prefer their name be listed on recognition pieces, always confirm the listing with them. If you’re able to get a proof of the print or brick, for example, send it to them for approval. They will appreciate the added communication in the long run.

In summary, if you put the same thought and care into thanking your donors as they put into making their gift, they will understand how special and important they are to your organization.  When donors feel valued and important, they will continue to deepen their investment with you.  As a result,  you will see better retention rates, which directly helps your organization achieve its mission!