Your All-Important First Thank You/Receipt

New donor reading thank you letter.

My theory is that the Thank You/Receipt you send to a brand new donor is one of the most-opened, most-read messages you will ever send.

With your first touch point after a donor’s first gift, she begins to form her opinion of how important she is to your organization… or not.

Is she important and meaningful… or a small cog in a big machine?

Are you going to talk to her about her gift… or tell her more about yourself (your organization)?

Are you going to use boilerplate language that’s about your whole organization… or customized language that speaks to the specific event or offer she gave to?

Ask yourself: what kind of letter would YOU like to receive? Which kind of organization would YOU rather give to?

Your New Donor Gives to LOTS of Organizations

She’s constantly scanning for organizations that help her make the change she wants to make in the world.

And she gave your organization a gift. She picked you!

How will you respond?

You’ve already made a favorable impression on her – she gave a gift, after all.

But this is your chance to confirm her first impression.

This makes the first sentence of your Thank You/Receipt copy the most important sentence.

It’s your first sentence that tells your donor:

  1. Are you really grateful for her gift, or are you just writing to acknowledge it?
  2. Are you writing to thank her for her generosity and what she’s going to accomplish, or are you writing to tell her more about your organization?

Because your donor is trying to get a feel for your organization. She’s trying to decide whether her gift to you was a good idea… or not.

So go look at the language – and especially the first sentence – of the Thank You/Receipt package you send to first-time donors. Make sure it acknowledges that it’s her first-ever gift. Make sure you mention your donor twice as much as you mention your organization. Make sure your first sentence is short, easy to read, and makes a great first impression!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *