How To Write A 'Thank You' Like A Boss

I sometimes ask organizations, "On whose job description is the task of saying thank you to donors?" The embarrassed look of the leaders as they look around at each other always impacts me.

They never have conversations about the power of an excellently said, "thank you."

Making sure that someone is saying thank you to their donors never occurs to them. It never occurs to board members to make sure someone says 'thank-you' for their organization. It never occurs to them to make sure someone is saying 'thank-you' excellently.

Saying 'thank-you' to donors is something they have never had a conversation about.

Too often, the 'thank-you' note is a job left to junior staff or, worse, the accounting department. Not a lot of thought goes into its content. Most 'thank-yous' are dull as dishwater and give the donor no credit for what has been accomplished.

Here's what I know and teach organizations: Knowing how to say 'thank-you' excellently sets your church or nonprofit apart from the pack.

The difference between getting all the money you need and continually struggling year after year often boils down to how well you say 'thank-you.' You see, the art of saying 'thank-you' is a primary key to building great relationships in life.

Most nonprofit 'thank-yous' are dull as dishwater and give the donor no credit for what has been accomplished.

For years, I have collected great 'thank-you' notes. I saved the notes that moved me and motivated me to give more. In studying these great 'thank-you' notes, I have learned they embody three values. They are:

  • personalized

  • give the donor credit

  • timely

1. Great 'thank-you' notes are personalized.

I have received automated and even handwritten 'thank-you' notes that began, "Dear Friend of XYZ Organization." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I GAVE YOU A GIFT, AND YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW MY NAME? The personalization should start with my name, mention the amount I gave, that it might be one of many previous gifts, and anything you can tell me about the impact my gift is making. Great 'thank-you notes are ALWAYS personalized. And, you should know, a pre-printed ’thank-you’ with my name filled in by hand, is almost offensive! WRITE THE WHOLE NOTE BY HAND!

2. Great 'thank-you' notes give the donor credit for the work accomplished.

Excellent 'thank you' notes tell the donor what they are doing through their gift, NOT what your organization is doing with their gift. Tell the donor their gift is already making a difference and is changing lives (OMG, THIS IS A DONOR'S DREAM!).

Make sure they know that it is because of their gift the work is taking place. NEVER SAY "THANK YOU FOR HELPING US HELP THEM."


Make sure they know you understand that the work is taking place because of them.

Show them the results of their giving and, if possible, exactly how their money is being put to use. Let them know what is happening because they gave.

Stop talking about all that your organization did with their help. Go ahead and give them the credit for making it happen! "Hey donor, LOOK WHAT YOU DID! YAY! (AND THANKS)!

3. Great 'thank-you' notes are timely

Many organizations take weeks and even months to acknowledge gifts. Many never get around to it.

Research tells us most first-time donors never give a second gift, but those first-time donors that get a personal 'thank-you' within 48 hours are four times more likely to give a second gift.

There is an excellent payoff in making an effort to be timely.

I believe nonprofits are led by 'angels' who often know little about fundraising. Because of that, I have created a cheat sheet with copies and examples of some great thank-yous. You can download it for free, with no strings attached. Refuse to remain naïve

about the power of great 'thank-yous. Get my free gift to you, "Cheat Sheet For Writing Better Thank Yous" and start down the path to getting your organization the money it needs!

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