Turn Donors into Fans with Best Practices for Donor Acknowledgments

As we approach Thanksgiving, nonprofits all over globe are preparing for another season — the giving season. Marked by Giving Tuesday, holidays and the end of the tax year, it is statistically the busiest season for giving. Some fun facts:

  • 31% of annual giving occurs in December
  • 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of December
  • 28% of nonprofits raise 26–50% of their annual funds from their annual letter

We have shared our tips for writing a great annual letter, but we also want to share our best practices for writing thank you notes that turn one-time donors into longtime friends and fans. After collecting donor acknowledgments for two years and studying best practices, we have generated recommendations that we hope will serve as a guide while you plan for your donor acknowledgment process this year.

Timing

Be sure to say “thank you” within a week of receiving a gift. You can start with an email and then follow up with a handwritten note or personalized letter. As a best practice, have board members also send a personalized note or call individual donors, especially if they have given a significant amount or donate regularly.

Tax Details

Always include a gift receipt with your letter. Be clear if they received any benefit for the donation and include important tax details, including name of organization, gift date, gift amount and the benefit to donor.

Total Collection

If you raised money as part of a giving day, share the details of your achievements, including the original goal, amount raised and percentage over goal.

Technology

Make sure your donor database is up-to-date with the donor’s current contact information, details and status. If you don’t have much information, use the thank you as an opportunity to collect additional details about the donor, so you can add them to your newsletter list and stay connected throughout the year. As a best practice, ensure that all spellings are correct and acknowledge both individuals in a couple (even if their gift was made with a credit card in one person’s name). Bonus! Collecting this information now will make recognition in your annual report much easier, too.

Tone

Keep your attention on the donor and ensure your note makes the donor feel like part of your team. Use “you” and “your” frequently. My favorite endings say “your gift will ensure…” or “we look forward to having you with us every step of the way as we …”

Testimonial about Impact

Remind the donor what their gift will support and, when possible, share the results of how the gift was used or quotes from program participants. Mention any exciting upcoming news, including anniversaries, new capital campaigns or strategic plans.

Tours & In-Person Experiences

Invite donors to take a tour or engage in an in-person experience. Think about providing an “exclusive” experience for first-time donors, including an orientation or tour, so they can learn more about your mission and form a personal connection.

While the year-end appeal gets all the glory, the thank you note and donor acknowledgment process should not be overlooked. Because stewardship is key to the success of any fundraising plan, donor acknowledgment can make a solid impression and inspire donors to not only donate again, but become part of the family. We’d love to hear your donor acknowledgment success stories and tips.

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