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Beth Ann writing a a thank you note to donors

Crying a little over thank you letters

donors fundraising gratitude relationships Mar 17, 2021

You need the "person" in personalization to connect with donors...

Back in 2013, I started a new position covering a maternity leave. Almost immediately, I implemented hand-signing all thank you letters. At the time, none had a live signature, not even the memorial donation letters, gasp!

There is no question that the most important components of a good thanking are swiftness, accuracy and appreciation. A thank you letter is an opportunity to extend and strengthen donor relationships. A live signature may be a marker in personalization. 

At this nonprofit in particular, they received about 5 - 15 gifts per day, except for year-end and the gala. On my last day, as requested, I inserted the scanned signature in the mergeable letters. I tweeted about my sad plight:


For me, it was a giant leap backwards (I wrote about this before). The reason I often hear for using a "faux" signature it that signing takes too long. I beg to differ, as I see it as an investment in connection with donors. I was reminded of this issue again today, in a tweet from Mark Phillips:
Every interaction between the donor and your nonprofit is an opportunity. Donor gifts signify their partnership when they give. The gift is a donor's "vote of confidence" in our efforts to push that change. Donors should be able to see the impact and feel like partners in the solutions that are supporting. 
I believe thank you letters should connect to the mission, be authentic, be personalized (be sure to address the person or household correct, including spelling), appreciative of support and signed. And that they are thanked again and again in little ways. 
Some readers may say, "We receive 400 gifts a day! It is impossible for anyone to actually sign every letter. Besides, online gifts get an immediate auto-respond thanks." Organizations need processes, but creating those processes can sometimes remove opportunities for connection. Think of postal mail you receive, many of which don't have a live signature: notices from politicians, discounts on pizza or flyers for gutter cleaning. Is this the low-bar cohort you wish to emulate with your thank yous? But I digress...
So this nonprofit went from this to this...


to this...


Find ways to inject liveliness and connection into your communications with donors. If you have moved to emailing all thank you notes over the last year, how are you creating moments of connection? Consider a call instead. Or a personal email, or a note for the mailbox. 
Relationships with donors offer the opportunity to reconnect - and present an inspirational opportunity for them to give again

Is your nonprofit experiencing a retention problem? The first step might be a gratitude audit.  Let's talk about how I can help your nonprofit keep and appreciate donors!
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