Say “Thank You” Like You Really Mean It

Note from Steven: This is a guest post from Lisa, an experienced Development Director who is on the Better Fundraising team.

Your receipt letters are arguably the most-opened, most-read piece of mail (or email) you’ll ever sent to your donors. Are you giving them the attention they deserve?

When I started as the Director of Development at a local non-profit, the first thing I looked at was the receipting process. Why? Because the receipt letter was the first ‘touch’ a donor would receive after sending in their gift.

What I found was an organization that loved their donors but didn’t know how to thank them. It was common practice to hold on to the receipts until there were enough to mail at a bulk rate. This meant some donors were being asked for another gift BEFORE they had been thanked for their first one.

The receipts letters were generic so they could be used year around. There was no acknowledgment of the donor’s actual gift amount, or what their gift was used for.

Put on your “donor hat” for a moment. How would you feel about receiving a generic receipt after you’ve been asked again?

I would probably look somewhere else to donate my charitable dollars. And I believe many of their donors did.

So simply saying “thank you” IS NOT enough.

Better Fundraising understands the importance of saying thank you and how to say it well. It is part of their “virtuous circle” and the Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat system.

So what does it mean to thank donors well?

  • Let them know you received their gift in a timely fashion. Ideally, within 2-3 business days after you received their gift.
  • Be sincere and emotional in your thank letter. True gratitude shines through a well-written thank you.
  • Let them know what their gift was used for. For example, if you asked them to give a gift provide food and shelter, thank them for providing food and shelter.

And the thank yous don’t need to stop here! You can thank donors multiple times for their gift. By phone, text, online, at an event, a hand-written note. You can also develop a different thank you strategy for your mass, mids and major donors.

Thanking donors well should be part of your organization’s culture. If it’s not, start today!

To learn more about thanking donors (especially important this time of year!) watch Jim and Steven’s video on saying “Thank You.”


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.

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