Charities and Thank You Notes

I’ve been looking over thank you notes that some charitable organizations have sent out. These notes serve several purposes. The most obvious is to say, “Thank you!” Aside from simple courtesy, saying thank you also helps strengthen the relationship between the donor and the organization.

Another important reason for the note is that it serves as a receipt. Donors, especially those that make larger gifts, need to have documentation for tax purposes. Sadly, many charities seem to think that this is the only reason for sending thank you notes. This has two unfortunate consequences. The first is that they only send thank you notes to large donors. But wait! Remember simple courtesy? Remember strengthening relationships with donors? Charities that only send thank you notes for donations above a certain threshold are sending an implied message to those that made smaller contributions that their efforts did not warrant a thank you. When deciding where to make their donations in the future, those donors will look to the organizations that acknowledged the gift.

The second unfortunate consequence is that the letters are lousy. If you are going to take the time to write a letter, don’t just say, “Thanks for the hundred bucks. Here’s your receipt.” Take the time to write a sincere letter that says why the contribution matters and how it will be used. Use that letter to strengthen your relationship with the donor.

I found a great blog post on the GuideStar Blog that does an excellent job of explaining donor thank you letters. The writer, Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE reviews nine common mistakes in thanking donors. Read the post and see if your not-for-profit is making any of those mistakes.

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