Category Archives: The Great Acknowledgment Swap
September 1, 2011, 10:45 am
Some organizations may have one thank-you letter to send to donors, but Trinity College, in Hartford, Conn., wants to be sure nobody gets the same letter twice.
Dorothy Thompson, assistant director for donor relations, says she is constantly tweaking the basic letter, building new ones from the interchangeable parts displayed below so she can find the most appropriate way to acknowledge each gift.
To make thank-you letters to annual-fund donors stand out, she looks for “benchmarks of overall excellence” to include, such as the average SAT scores of students in Trinity’s incoming freshman class and jumps in the number of applications.
To ensure that Trinity has enough options to keep donors from getting the same message over and over, Ms. Thompson says, she is constantly searching for good ideas she can copy from other institutions.
“I definitely try to see what other donor-…
July 27, 2011, 1:26 pm
Donors to Regis Jesuit High School, in Colorado, last year didn’t just get a letter of gratitude, they also received an invitation to help teach students.
The first paragraph of the letter told alumni donors how their donation would be used, but the rest of the letter asked them to join the private school’s One Book, One Community program. Every student in the school had been asked to read The Soloist, by Steve Lopez, and the library was holding special events.
The school even selected a quote from the book for the header of the letter, one that touched on many of the schools’ focuses: faith, purpose, and the arts.
“The theme is just a way to connect people back to what’s happening at the school and hopefully get them involved,” said Jon Kraus, associate director of advancement at the school.
That strategy worked. Mr. Kraus said that one event tied to the One Book program, a …
July 22, 2011, 9:24 am
Gratitude cannot be measured in word count.
At least that’s part of the philosophy of Thompson Child & Family Focus, a 125-year-old charity in North Carolina.
“Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to drag on and on,” says Shannon Hinson, the organization’s director of individual giving. “The point of this is not necessarily to educate people: You can, but the point of this is to say, ‘Thank you.’”
The charity’s 163-word letter is simple, she says. Thompson operates 13 programs and in 2010 served more than 12,000 children with a variety of needs. Because the charity offers so many services, Ms. Hinson says, she wanted to keep the message as clear as “You are changing lives!”
More than half of the letter is taken up by quotes from parents, children, and staff members. Because the organization works with young people, it uses the quotes to share “daily victories” without…
July 14, 2011, 10:20 am
As patients at a Vancouver, Wash., free clinic wait for medical and dental appointments, they have the opportunity to thank the donors who helped provide those services.
Several patients each week fill out thank-you notes left in the waiting room of the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, though no one at the clinic directly asks them to.
Some of those notes are then photocopied and sent with formal letters from the charity thanking donors for their gifts.
Haley Overton, the clinic’s communications and marketing coordinator, says she sends a copy of each letter to only five to 10 donors. That keeps the letters fresh, she said. (An excerpt of one note is included below.)
Ms. Overton also updates that formal letter monthly with new statistics about the number of people served, both to be accountable to donors about where their money goes and to show them how the need for…
July 11, 2011, 9:27 am
When Acterra, an environmental charity in California’s Silicon Valley, recently revised its standard letter to thank donors, it decided to reinforce donors’ emotional ties to the cause, says Amber Nixon, the group’s development director.
Taking some advice from the free electronic book Lifetime Donor Attraction System, by the fund-raising consultant Pamela Grow, Ms. Nixon said she changed the first paragraph of the group’s letter to give the donor a “sense of joy,” included a personal story, and acknowledged each donor’s commitment to the cause.
Previously, each donor received the same form letter. Now it sends different messages for first-time donors, repeat supporters, and people who make big gifts.
Ms. Nixon said she also seized on a missed opportunity with the letter’s P.S. line, which asked donors to visit the organization’s Web site. Now that line asks donors to become a…
June 24, 2011, 8:48 am
Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer, two YMCA sailing camps in Arapahoe, N.C., thank donors by sharing stories of campers and counselors.
The camps offer two model letters, both of which use the phrase “I AM CAMP.” The letters show donors examples of how their donations are used and make them feel like part of the camp.
“We wanted them to feel a direct connection to what was going on,” said Lisa Brown, director of annual giving and stewardship at the camps and the author of the letters.
In the letters, Ms. Brown attempted to show examples of how gifts to the annual fund are used, including camper scholarships, training for counselors, and other programs, she says.
This letter is part of the Great Acknowledgment Swap, a collection of letters collected by Lynne Wester, director of stewardship and donor recognition at Yeshiva University and blogger at donorrelationsguru.com. You can…
June 16, 2011, 9:32 am
When Child Advocates, in Houston, thanks grant makers who have made a donation, it replies with a letter that offers statistics about the organization’s results and specific examples of children the group has helped.
“What I wanted to do was give our donors a sense of what their money is going to be used for, to help the lives of abused and neglected children,” said Liz Peterson, the organization’s development coordinator and grants manager.
She said that when she selects stories about the children, it helps to show the diverse issues they face. And she chooses statistics that show grant makers what a difference their money has made over time.
This letter is part of the Great Acknowledgment Swap, a collection of letters collected by Lynne Wester, director of stewardship and donor recognition at Yeshiva University and blogger at donorrelationsguru.com. You can see the full…
June 8, 2011, 10:07 am
Have you ever wondered how other charities thank their donors?
A few weeks ago, Lynne Wester, a fund raiser at Yeshiva University, invited readers on The Chronicle‘s LinkedIn group to share the letters their organizations send to acknowledge gifts.
Ms. Wester, who is the university’s director of stewardship and donor recognition as well as blogger at donorrelationsguru.com, has collected more than 480 examples from fund raisers worldwide and made them all publicly available. You can see the full 645-page collection on her site.
The Chronicle will feature one organization’s letter each week, and we invite you to give your views on what works—and what does not—and to borrow ideas for your own fund-raising efforts.
To begin, we feature a letter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is sent to most of the organization’s donors.
Those who contribute more than $150,000 to…