Guest Post: Thank You Letters — The Good, The OK and the Ugly!

How awesome is your thank you letter- (1)

The results are in!

A few weeks ago we asked you to put your thank you letter to the test – and over 650 fundraisers did!!!

Here is what we learned….

What we’re doing well: Personalization.

We all know it’s true: personal will win over corporate any day of the week! I was happy to see that:

  • 96% of fundraisers are addressing the thank you letter to the donor’s actual name – that’s great! Personalization like that matters.
  • 85% of thank you letters are signed by a real person! WOOT!

What we could do better: Making the donor the hero.

To inspire support, a charity needs to make a convincing emotional case based on the cause and the beneficiaries. But a recent study has found that the key to keeping donors is all about what the charity does for their donors.  In this area, we still have some work to do:

  • 80% of charities make the hero of the thank you letter the donor.
  • 70% of charities use the magic word” “you” more than the word “we” – meaning talking less about your organization and more about the donor.

Why does this matter? Well, as Jeff Brooks says: “The power of you comes from the fact that good fundraising is always about the donor.”

Make your thank you letters about what the donor has accomplished with their gift – not how great the charity is. Here’s an example of a truly terrific thank you letter that celebrates the donor – be sure to watch the video!

What we’re failing at: Being specific.

Stalin said: “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”

Mother Theresa said: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

And Jeff Brooks said: “Make your message about people, not statistics and facts. Numbers numb. Stories and pictures of people stir donors to action… Your donors likely feel powerless to put an end to poverty or injustice. But they can easily imagine reaching out to one person and making a difference.. The other crucial thing about the problem in your story is you must show it to be solvable. By the donor.”

For all those reasons, it is a bit heart breaking that only 47% of charities give a specific example of how the gift will be used.

That isn’t good enough, people!

Why? It’s not inspiring. It’s not emotional. It’s not memorable.

Here’s an amazing example of a charity who is getting really specific:  

bungo3-e1435958512797 cat_large_NIKON D81020141129164117

My name is Mr. Bungo and since the last time you read about me I’ve changed. I was extremely malnourished after living on the streets of East Vancouver by myself, covered in fleas, freezing cold and sitting in puddles. Thanks to you and my foster home, I’ve been able to get back on my feet. Little by little I gained weight and slowly regained my energy.

One day, as I was basking in the sun in my foster home, I had visitors. A lovely lady named Shawna and her husband Chris had come to meet me. They seemed very nice and I liked them straight away. I guess they liked me too because they adopted me. I finally have a forever home.

Now I love to sleep at the end of their bed, feeling safe by being close to the people that love me most. One of my favourite things is to lay on either Shawna or Chris and have a good cuddle. It’s good to be able to relax and not worry about anything.

Read the rest here…

As a cat lover, I find that WAY more touching than learning about that charity’s mission statement!

So come on, fundraisers! Don’t we owe it to our donors to make our thank you letters the best they can be?!

How can you improve your thank you letter? Feel free to take the test to identify ways to give your thank you letter a tune up.


Want more #DonorLove? Check out our next webinar TOMORROW! Keeping the Donor Love Alive & Thriving

As fundraisers we are measured on the asks we make and the gifts we close. But that’s not how our donors measure our work. They pay attention to the thank you’s they receive and how they feel when they get them. Maybe that is why, as a sector, we have a big problem: donors are falling out of love with giving to us.

Spend an hour with Rory Green and Beth Ann Locke as they explore real life #DonorLove examples and creative ideas with one purpose: helping you keep the relationship with donors alive and thriving.

Be inspired to make #DonorLove a priority in your daily work and walk away with practical tips to help donors keep that loving feeling.

Sign up now!


Written by Rory Green



Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:


17 thoughts on “Guest Post: Thank You Letters — The Good, The OK and the Ugly!

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