I wish it were this simple.

I wish it were this simple.

One of the biggest issues in fundraising is donor recruitment; the second biggest issue is donor retention.  Twice as many people who make an initial donation never give again. It costs energy, resources and time to develop a good and ongoing donor relationship;  and is much easier to keep an established partner than to have to find new ones.

The first reason many only one-time donors say they don’t give a second time is the lack of a timely thank you letter and acknowledgment.

This is an easy fix. 

Listed below are 10 absolute requirements for making sure your letter has all the elements your letter needs to provide your donor with the confidence that their gift is both noticed and appreciated. 

1.   From: send  mail from a real email address, not a ?do not reply to this address? email drop box. If the donor wishes to reply, make it easy and direct to do so.

2.  To: Personalize here, address it to Dear Cindy or Dear Ms. Lauren, not Dear Donor or Friend.

3.   Start Off:  with THANK YOU. This is the main purpose of this correspondence, say thanks directly for this gift right off the bat.

4.   Be Tangible:  Tell them how that gift will work: “ your gift will be used towards obtaining supplies, providing coaching, increasing research funds”, whatever the case may be.  Show how their gift becomes the actual work you to do because of the donation.


5.   Add a Picture:  A picture is truly worth a thousand words. Choose carefully and choose an image that shows the improvement in the world that your work is making.


6.  Be Easy to Find:  Be sure your website is clickable and easy to see. Make it easy for anyone to click and learn more about what you do and how their donation makes your impact greater. Add your phone number or street address, show visitors where you are and where you work.


7.   Make the last paragraph grateful, sincere and personal, and from a real someone:  A single sentence, a short phrase and the name of someone at the firm. And sign it.


8.   Details of the Transaction:  record of the donation including name of the charity, amount given, how the gift was made ( cash, check, online) transaction date, internal transaction number, any restrictions or program designations or referrals , in honor of, in  memory of, or for other specific  campaigns.


 9.   Standard Legal Language:  Include language that shows that the donation was not in exchange for any goods or services, if that is true. If the gift exceeds the value of any goods or services the donor receives, as with donated prizes for silent auctions or tickets to an event, the value of the donation is when it exceeds the value of the goods/services received. That value is considered Fair Market Value for tax purposes.

?         For instance, if a painting at an auction that is valued  ( FMV) at $100, and the winning bid if for $150, the donation is for $50.  

?         If the ticket for the event that includes dinner and drinks has a fair market value of $70, and the tickets are $100, the donation is $30.

10.  Tax ID Number: Be sure to include your Tax ID number and the statement that you are a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. 


Last, but not least:  I have never found that it hurts to hand sign and add a brief note on those paper acknowledgements, although they can be increasingly rare these days. For email sometimes a short P.S. below my signature works as well.

 Do feel free to use the template below, or if you wish to create a custom letter, give us a call and we would love to help.   310 828 6979, or shoot us an email: clauren@laurenassociates.com

Sample Letter: ( feel free to copy and customize)

May 25, 2011 

Dear Heather: 

Thank you for your gift to the Legal Access for Learning Foundation. This gift will help us in our mission to strengthen educational programs and community service as well as provide access and alternatives to students who need additional assistance in learning skills and in class. Your gift will help us to provide additional counseling for the 1200 teachers and parents we were able to help this year.

If you have any further questions about what we are doing, please feel free to contact Maryellen Fox, our Development Associate at 555-555-5555. She will be happy to answer any questions you may have about our work.

Your gift made allowed them both to enjoy reading the story.

Your gift made allowed them both to enjoy reading the story.

 We are honored by your  choice of LALF for your generous gift; please know how important your support is for our students and the positive impact on learning you have made. 


Laura Smith-Johnson
Executive Director, LALF

No goods or services were received in exchange for this donation ; your contribution is  tax-deductible to the extent allowable  by law. Tax ID # 12-345-6789, LALF is a 5013c, nonprofit, tax exempt organization.

Transaction Record:   

Charity:                 Legal Access Learning Foundation
Amount:                $10.00;    Check # 1001, dated May 25, 2014

Frequency:    One-time gift

Gift Designation:  Where the need is greatest

Transaction ID:    9999999999

Transaction Date: 5/22/2011


image credits: http://www.austinfree.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Keyboard.thank-you.jpg