Gift acknowledgments: Saying ‘thank you’ to donors
Prompt and thoughtful gift acknowledgments are central to effective fundraising.
- What should a “thank you” to donors include? There are no magic words that each nonprofit must include in “thank you” notes to donors; however, it’s important to be familiar with what donors expect. We encourage you to think about how to say “thank you” in a personal and meaningful way.
- When should a gift acknowledgment be sent? Soon! Donors expect to receive a “thank you” for any size of the contribution, and they also expect it soon after making their gift. Sending the acknowledgment within a short period of time reassures the donor that the donation was received, and solidifies donor relations.
- There are other ways to acknowledge a gift in addition to a written gift acknowledgment that is sent to the donor, whether via email or regular mail. Many nonprofits include a list of current donors in an annual report, or on their website; donors often look for their names on those lists and may be puzzled if they don’t see themselves listed. They also may be unhappy if they have asked to remain anonymous and their name is listed. Make sure you know whether and how a donor would appreciate the public acknowledgment of a gift.
Background on “gift substantiation”
Nonprofits want to make sure that donors feel appreciated and recognized for their generosity. nonprofits don’t take the time to tell the donor the impact and power of their gift, where the money went, and how it was spent. Instead, they’re too eager to obtain the next gift which leads to horrific retention rates. We have to make the donor the hero and tell a story, not overwhelm them with news and information about the organization or ask them for more money. First, we have to thank them, and then tell them the impact their money had.”
What should the gift acknowledgment contain?
- Acknowledgment statement of the nonprofit. Remind them of the work their donation is allowing you to do. Use your thank you letter as a chance to zoom in on specific projects.
- Either(a) amount donated (if cash or cash equivalents); or (b) description of the property donated (the nonprofit should not attempt to assign the cash value of property; doing so is the donor’s responsibility);
- The date the donation was received;
- It is beneficial to keep the length of the letter manageable. This is because all you need to convey is the gratitude and the impact of the gift. Any additional information can make the letter seem like a chore to read and deter your donors from donating again.
You do not have to have every aspect mentioned here, but this will add variety to your thank you notes. For newer donors, you may want to include contact information for someone in your organization who can answer questions.
Thank you for your generous gift to [name of organization]. We are thrilled to have your support. Through your donation, we have been able to accomplish [
goal] and continue working towards [ purpose of organization]. You truly make the difference for us, and we are extremely grateful!
Today your donation is going toward
[problem]. If you have specific questions about how your gift is being used or our organization as a whole, please don’t hesitate to contact [Name] through [ contact information].
The pressure of finding donors can be overwhelming, but you can drastically impact your overall fundraising efforts through retaining donors. The simple act of writing a thoughtful donation thank you letter is one simple way to show that your organization cares not only about your mission but also about donors that make your work possible.
These notes shift the focus from highlighting your organization to the good your donor is doing by giving to your organization. This brings home the sense of accomplishment, and gratification for the donor, which will keep them invested in your organization for years to come.