What we can learn from the worst thank you letter ever written

I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Yes, the worst thank you letter ever written by a nonprofit to its donors.

Okay, I can’t verify that it’s the worst. But this one has to be close. Here it is (names and details changed to protect the guilty parties):

Dear [Salutation],

At its highest aspiration, philanthropy is a way to fulfill our desire to have meaningful impact and change peoples’ lives in a profound way. I’m writing to express my gratitude for your gift of [Amount] on [Date] in support of [Designation] at Springfield Community Hospital.

Generous investments like yours are the foundation of our ability to provide the best possible health care and, ultimately, peace of mind for our patients and their families.

Through the advances in care that philanthropic partnerships like yours make possible, our patients have access to vital new programs, intelligent research and technologies, and better, more personalized care.

Please accept my thanks for your support of Springfield Community Hospital. Together, we are taking patient care to the next level, right here at home.

All due credit should go to this organization for bothering to thank its donors at all. Apparently, according many charitable mystery shoppers, that’s more than many organizations can manage. So this organization is among the elite for donor thankfulness.

But come on! Talking about the wonderfulness of “philanthropy” is really missing the point. It needs to actually thank the donor — something it never quite says. “I’m writing to express my gratitude” and “Please accept my thanks” almost get there … but the letter is determinedly stuck in the realm of abstraction.

Want to write a great thank you letter? Do these things:

  • Actually say “Thank you.” A few times.
  • Tell a story or paint a word.jpgcture of the difference the donor’s giving makes — in human terms.
  • Be colloquial, warm, and friendly. Not formal and businesslike.
  • Thank them as specifically as possible. For the same thing you asked them to give to!

The research is clear: Thanking matters. It is the first step to your next donation. Good emotional (and prompt) thanking can turn donations into donors — people who give repeatedly because they love to give.

We put a lot of effort into asking effectively. We should put as much into thanking.


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog