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.

Originally published in NpENGAGE.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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