thank you letter non profitThank you. Ta. Merci. Danke. Grazie. No matter what language, we can all agree, thank yous are important.  Thank you for your donation, thank you for your attendance, thank you for your recommendation, thank you, thank you, thank you.

But HOW do we say thank you? Best practices tell us to be sure to send donors a Thank You letter within two weeks of receiving their donation. Some organizations are better at this than other. That logistic nightmare is another whole post. What I’m curious about is: what do your Thank You letters look like? How do they sound? How are they structured? (Read Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Thank You Letters – 3 I Love)

Recently the organization I work for decided it was time to overhaul our Thank You letters and start from scratch. Personally, I was excited. I hated exporting, organizing and mail merging data into 18 different letter templates depending on the donation type, amount, and other minute restrictions. Plus I hated the letters themselves. Entirely left justified, “thanks for your recent contribution” snore, snore, boring. It was essentially a business like receipt, a Kivino-no“. So when 5 minutes of dead air indicated that no one else was willing to step up and write some new letters (oh the charm of conference calls), I took it as a sign from above I should step up to the plate. (Read About.com’s Thank You Letter Guide HERE – not half bad)

Armed with Mal Warwick’s How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters I prepared to blow my co-workers out of the water. Four hours, a pack of Twizzlers and 3 cans of mountain dew later I had my masterpieces: aesthetic interest, personalized voice, an invite to visit us online or via other social media resources, and essential IRS information, it was all there. I would’ve been happy to receive such a letter as thanks for my donation.

I happily saved my collection of templates in Dropbox and sent off the link. I waited, excited and nervous, to receive what I expected to be responses of joy and praise. I envisioned something along the lines of “WHY DIDN’T WE THINK OF THIS. You’ve changed our lives. We want to give you a raise.”

As I’m sure my story has lead you to expect, no such praise came. The long and short of it is that after quite a few “I don’t like…” “Why does it do this…” back and forth our new thank you templates look almost EXACTLY the same as our old ones. Yetch. However despite my disappointment I’m willing to admit that the letter I wrote may not have been appropriate at this time for the organization at which I work. One day, perhaps, our letters will reflect the warmth of our staff and excitement of our mission. But for now, they letters we have get it done.

What kind of thank yous does your organization send? Who signs them? How do you structure them? Leave links to your favorite thank yous as well as any feed back or suggestions on best way you’ve been thanked for your charitable donations in the comments!

And because it’s a great song and the title is Thank You enjoy some Led Zep below:

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