The Art of the Thank-You

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Thanking our donors should be the easy part of our communications with them; after all, showing heartfelt gratitude for their support of our organization and cause comes naturally, doesn't it? According to the findings reported in Mal Warwick's instructive book, How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters, it appears that what comes naturally does not always come quickly or get done at all. In Warwick's sobering reflections on these findings, he reports feedback from members of a focus group, including this eye-opening one:The thing that burns me up is getting a thank-you about two months after I send a check -- after they've already asked me for more money! I won't give to a group that's that disorganized ... or rude!

To avoid this and even more embarrassing situations, learn how to organize your donor recognition efforts and how to write thank-you letters that mean something with these handy resources:

  • Effective Donor Relations  by Janet L. Hedricks (743 HEN) *
     Chapter 3, "Acknowledgment", is a substantial treatment of the stewardship principles you should consider for your donors. It covers very specific issues in its tips and techniques; advice on the timing of thank-you letters; an interesting section on choosing who will say thank you to your donors; and a very thorough "elements in the thank-you letter" section, which includes different approaches for different types of donors.
  • How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters by Mal Warwick (730 WAR HOW) *
     Chapter 18 offers the cautionary tale already mentioned above, plus components of the thank-you letter, a case study of a "great thank-you letter", and advice and pointers.
  • Charitable Contributions: Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements (IRS Publication 1771)  (Available online)
     This IRS guide explains what organizations should include in their acknowledgment letters for donations of $250 or more so that their donors can receive tax deductions on charitable contributions. It also explains the disclosure requirements regarding any goods or services the donor receives in conjunction with a contribution.

* Find it in the New York library's lending collection.

Online resources can often offer useful advice and examples:

All the work you've dedicated to capturing the attention and good will of your donors can be boosted further with a well-organized system for recognizing their contributions. The resources we're suggesting should help you find the most efficient and interesting ways to do that.

--Inés Sucre
Reference/Outreach Librarian
The Foundation Center-New York