How to Say “Thank You” to Donors at Year-End

I admit words come easily to me; I’m comfortable talking or writing. (I won’t get into what I’m not so good at—some confessions are best left unsaid). Even though I constantly preach about the importance of the ability to say “thank you,” when I sit down to write another monthly receipt letter I sometimes wonder, “Am I just repeating the same things over and over? What can I say that feels brand new to the person reading it?”

With the Internet at my fingertips, I decided to do a quick search to see what advice there is for saying “thank you.” After all, with year-end approaching, hopefully fundraisers everywhere will have even more opportunities to practice this art.

Not surprisingly, the Hallmark blog popped up with a recent posting by Keely Chace that began, “You know that wonderful, warm-fuzzy feeling that comes over you when someone goes out of his or her way to … bless you, support you or help you out?” I was hooked; after all, “warm-fuzzy” is what I feel like when I hear that donors responded with gifts to the direct mail copy I wrote or they clicked on the link for the eAppeal.

So how can we do a better job saying thank you?

Choose words and phrases that will resonate with your donors.

First, check out the sample phrases Chace included in the article. If nothing else, they will give you a place to start. “Your gift to XYZ Organization made our day! My heart just keeps thanking you and thanking you!” Over the top? Possibly—but when you are the recipient of thanks, do you usually feel like it’s overdone? (OK, the exception is when someone thanks you 10 times for giving them a tissue).

Next, think about who makes up your donors (for a mass thank you) or how a person expresses him or herself when you are writing to a single donor. Then, choose words and phrases that will resonate with them and help them understand what they made possible. A donation is more than an exchange of money—it’s a hope on the part of the giver that he or she will help create a miracle, small or large.

Share results with those who are writing and designing your fundraising.

Sitting down to write an appeal is so much easier when you know that the last one you wrote actually worked. Were there notes that came in that expressed appreciation for something that was said in the letter? Did someone tell you that her heart was touched by the story that was shared? Passing those along to writers and designers can give them a fresh excitement about finding a way to tell your story again.

Finally, don’t be afraid to do some soul-searching.

Who always lifts you up with a word of thanks? What is it they say that makes you feel good inside? Then start practicing saying “thank you” – even for little things. American psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “Feeling gratitude isn’t born in us – it’s something we are taught, and in turn, we teach our children.” I would add that sometimes we have to teach it to ourselves, too.

2016 hasn’t been an easy year for many of us. But a word of gratitude—even from the nonprofit organization that we chose to support—can give us a reason to smile and a reminder that hope is not gone. So practice saying “thank you,” and create the nonprofit organization that is known for truly valuing its donors.

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