How to write a thank you letter when you feel stuck

Don’t settle for a crummy thank you. Here’s some help

September’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival gave you links to great articles on thanking your donors.

Here’s my quick how-to

First, a confession: I used to write rote, boring, perfunctory thank you letters.

And I didn’t much like writing them. What do you say?

Plus, with an appeal, you feel like you have a goal. Thanks are an after-thought, right?

Wrong. So. Wrong.

Then I read posts by my friends Pamela Grow and Lisa Sargent. My eyes were opened.

Since then I’ve known how important saying thank you is. So here is my advice for your great thank you letter.

Personalize the salutation

Nothing says, “We love you for your money” like a “Dear Friend” thank you letter. Don’t do it.

First paragraph: One great line

Just like your appeal letter, the first line of your thank you does some heavy lifting. Make it sing.

On behalf of…” is coma-inducing. Don’t do that either.

Instead, imagine your favorite person in the world.

Imagine they’ve just given you the greatest gift — the thing you’d never dare ask for.

Hang on to that feeling of love and gratitude. That’s what needs to fill this line.

Make it short. And make it all about the donor, not your organization.

Stuck? Try “You’re amazing!” or “You’re my hero!

Flatter away. Gush.

Trust me, no one hates being told they’re wonderful.

Second paragraph: Look at what you’ve done!

Tell your donor exactly what their generosity accomplishes.

Hint: this is never “meeting our annual fund goals”. Connect their generosity to the beneficiary.

Because of your generous gift, a family will have a real Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Make the connection without inserting your organization.

Nothing in this letter is about how great you are.

Third paragraph: Stay connected

Use this to suggest ways they can learn more, call for a tour, reach you or another real person via phone or email. (And do I have to say that they’d better be able to reach that person?)

Fourth paragraph: Say it again

Restate your gratitude. Tell them again why they’re important.

Have a human sign the letter

Make it someone as high up in the organization as possible. Or sometimes, the person the donor has a connection to.

Sign it for real. Add a note — even if the note is only “thank you very much!”.

Don’t make the IRS the star of the letter

Stick that boring but necessary language at the bottom of the letter. No one wants to read it — they just want it there.