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1-1-1: What Makes A Great Gift Acknowledgment Letter?



1 Lesson from Me

I believe gift acknowledgment letters are so important that I created a 90-minute webinar called "The Fine Art of Thanking Donors" for Growth members of my monthly Fundraising Transformers Community. I'm talking about sincere letters that leave your donors feeling appreciated and knowing their gifts are truly making a difference.

Below are a few key attributes that make a great gift acknowledgment letter.

1. The gift acknowledgment letter should include a quote from a grateful client – someone whose life has improved thanks to the generosity of your caring supporters. Perhaps a grateful mom or dad. A student. A happy family who just gave an abandoned dog a forever home. Maybe a teacher whose second-grade class just had a transformative experience after watching a performance at your theatre or touring your gallery or museum.

Here's an example of a quote from a grateful client:
"I don't know what's ahead for our family, but I know we won't be alone. We have The Children's Center." –Tonya, Mother of three.

2. Another key attribute is using a warm and personal salutation. Using the donor's first name (unless you know they prefer a more formal salutation such as Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.). If we are genuinely working to establish a close and personal relationship with our donors, we should address them in a personal manner. Likewise, we should sign it with our first name only. Don't worry, your signature block is there with your full name and title.

3. Gift acknowledgment letters should be donor-centric. The brilliant Tom Ahern taught us well when he said the "donor" is the hero. Our gift acknowledgment letters should be about the donor, not how great our organization is. (Stay tuned for my podcast episode "Calling All Heroes" for our take on donor-centricity and community-centricity.)

So, we should reference the donor at least three times every time we use the words "we, our, us," or the name of our organization. Use 3:1 words like you and your, and say the donor's name. Connecting the donor directly to the impact of their gift.

For example:
"You are amazing. Your generosity is helping children heal, hope, and dream again." Versus "Your gift will help us heal children so they can dream again."

4. Include impact statements in your gift acknowledgment letters. Share with your loyal and amazing donors how much impact their generous gifts will have on those you serve.

Impact is easier to convey if the gift is restricted for a specific purpose, right? But what if it's an unrestricted operating gift?

Here's an example of an impact statement for an "unrestricted" gift.
"You turn trauma into triumph, fear into courage, and despair into determination every single day" or "You are erasing the traces of trauma from the hearts and minds of our wounded warriors, like John."

5. Your gift acknowledgment letters should be hand-signed and include a handwritten, personal note or p.s. on each letter. And you should mail the letter within 48 to 72 hours of receiving a gift from your donor. The sooner, the better!

Want access to my 90-minute webinar called "The Fine Art of Thanking Donors?" Join my Fundraising Transformers Community as a Growth member and get instant access now.


1 Quote from Someone Else

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Source: John F. Kennedy 


1 Question for You 

John F. Kennedy also said, "A high tide raises all boats." We agree.

In that spirit, what are some of the ways you express your gratitude to the donors who make your work possible?


To share, just sign-up for a free Mentor membership in my Fundraising Transformers Community. After you log in, click "Lessons Learned" under Mentor in the left sidebar and share your thoughts.


Bye for now,
Tammy Zonker
Fundraising Strategist & Keynote Speaker
Recognized as one of America’s Top 20 Fundraising Experts
Creator of the Fundraising Transformers Community 


p.s. Learn more about how I can help you take your fundraising results to the next level as a Growth member in my Fundraising Transformers Community.

p.p.s. If you find this lesson helpful, please forward this post to someone else you know who may benefit.



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