As we head towards Spring fundraising season, now is a great time to think about refreshing your donor thank you letter (also known as an acknowledgement letter).
Think about it – if you have donors who gave during year end fundraising and they are giving again in the Spring to another appeal, it would be slightly impersonal for them to receive the exact same letter. A good rule of thumb is to refresh your thank you letter at least twice per year.
An easy way to update your thank you letter is to add a story to it. Just like appeal letters that tell a story, thank you letters that use a story are more emotionally engaging for the reader. Not to mention, they more clearly show impact and accountability to the donor. Both of which are key for retaining donors.
Today, you’re going to learn how to collect a story for your organization’s thank you letter.
Step #1: Decide what kind of a story you want to use.
Our recommendation is to use a staff story or a client story in your thank you letter. If you segment your thank you letters, then you might be collecting multiple stories to be used in the different letter versions.
Step #2: Reach out to three people who you can interview for a story.
We recommend three people because you may only get one who says yes. Plus, if you’re unsure of exactly which story you will use in your thank you letter this will give you an option or two.
Here’s our sample email script for this:
I’m in the process of updating our donor thank you letters and would like to use a story in them. Our donors love to hear direct examples and stories about our organization’s work and I immediately thought of you. Would you (or a client in your program) be willing to be interviewed and have your story used in our thank you letter?
Hope you’re having a great week!
Step 3: Conduct the interview.
It doesn’t need to take all day. In fact, you can keep your interview under 30 minutes. Bring a notepad and pen, or recorder – whatever your note-taking tool of choice is. But really, focus on having a conversation with the person you’re sitting across from.
Once you’ve finished the interview, go through your notes and pull out any direct quotes or morsels of the story that speak to change. This is what donors most want to hear about – change that they’ve helped facilitate.
Step 4: Incorporate the story into the thank you letter.
After you have conducted the interview and reviewed your notes, pull up a copy of your current thank you letter. Add in a direct quote between the opening salutation and the first paragraph. This makes for a much more interesting story. Then you can thank the donor and continue telling them about the story and their impact.
Here’s what the structure of this might look like:
Dear (Donor Name),
“Quote . . .”
(Donor Name), this is the kind of change that you make possible in our community through your gifts. We are so grateful that you continue to support XYZ organization to . . .
As you read in (Name)’s story, . . . (Tell them more about the person’s story).
But it’s not just this one person that you helped. There are many other people like (Name) who need. . .
Thank you again for your support.
This is a very skeletal outline of a thank you letter, but it gives you an idea of the flow from the quote to the thank you and back to the story.