How should I say 'thanks!'?
July 3, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

How should I write thank-you letters for charitable donations?

I'm currently working on a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and have asked all of my family and friends to make donations on fund raising website (hosted by ACS). Beyond that I've also asked them to tell their family, friends, and co-workers about what I'm doing, in hopes that they'll contribute as well.

For my family and friends, it's pretty easy, I see that they've made a donation and I call them or write them an email saying something along the lines of "thank you so much, you're awesome and I love you!" But I'm kind of stumped now that friends and co-workers of friends, etc have started donating. I want to send them a personal note letting them know that I appreciate their contribution, but I don't want to cross any lines as far as formality, etc. since I don't know the person personally and especially in the case that it's a co-worker or boss.

Some suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

(also if you'd like to donate so I can practice on you, check out to find out more and get a link to donate on the ACS's website... :-)
posted by JRGould to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't have to go for anything overly personal, but instead talk about what a difference it makes, either to you (if you're affected or have a touching story), or just about how many lives are touched by cancer and what a great difference they're making.

As crass as it sounds, I think you basically want to tell them that they're a great person. You can stay fairly 'formal'/professional while still reminding them what a difference they've made.
posted by fogster at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2008

Great idea. There's a lot of reserach showing how important thanks are in people donating more frequently and donating to charities more than once.

Just begin with your statement of thanks "I'm writing in appreciation of your donation of [$ amount] in support of my Relay for Life campaign for the American Cancer Society."

Then quanitfy how their assistance helped:

"Your donation is making a difference. To date, with contributions from you and others, we've raised [X amount,] or [X percent of our goal.]"

Then refer to the big picture somehow. You can find some statistics on the ACS pages (kind of like the ones you used in your intro page) and cite those, or (my preference) make a personal statement like:

"I chose to do this challenge because [whatever you might have to say about why you care about research to end cancer - bring your "so not cool" theme in. Cancer touches almost everyone's life, so you could mention that, and definitely repeat the 50% by 2015 goal of ACS.] It's great to know that you support the same goal and want to sincerely thank you for your donation, whatever your reasons for giving."

Then let them know how, when, and where they can check your team's progress: "Relay results will be online - visit the [Relay for Life website] on [day, date, and time] to see how our team did. Your support will help us cross that finish line. Thanks again."

You have a fun campaign, so your letter can be fun as well. Just be sure you use nice paper or cardstock, and avoid being flip - but your tone on the website is perfectly appropriate. Sending them in hard copy rather than email is better; it means more to people and will always be welcome. If you print out the letters or notes, be sure to sign them in real ink, and edit them carefully to make sure you aren't sending out boilerplate text ("Dear Donor") when you really mean to individualize ("Dear Dr. Fancypants").
posted by Miko at 11:57 AM on July 3, 2008

Dear (Name of donor)

On behalf of the patrons, Board, staff, and artists of NAME OF AGENCY, I’d like to thank you for the generous gift of $AMOUNT. We are very grateful for your generosity.

The unique programs of AGENCY make a valuable contribution to NEED. With your help we are able to ACHIEVE SPECIFIC OUTCOME. In addition, we can ADDRESS SECONDARY NEED.

So far this year, with your help, we have accomplished ONE GENERAL AND ONE VERY SPECIFIC OUTCOME (Sent Patty Poor Person to school, got Ronnie Rehab a job, whatever)

With your partnership and the great leadership of BOARD PREZ, HONORARY CHAIR, EXEC DIR (whoever your internal "celeb" is) we will continue to make great strides against ISSUE.

Be sure to mark your calendar for our NEXT FUNDRAISING, DONOR OR PUBLIC EVENT, on DATE.

Thank you again for your time and support.


WHOEVER SIGNS YOUR LETTERS (We parse this out-- Development Director for undre $250, General Manger $250 to $1,000, Artistic Director over $1,000)

Post script (or in body of letter):
This letter confirms that no goods or services were received in exchange for this gift. Please retain this letter for your records. Light Opera Works is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation under IRS section 501 (c)(3); all gifts are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

I'm a fundraising professional. If you have any specific questions, MeMail. Any and all are welcome to plagiarize away!
posted by nax at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mail it via the post office. A quick email saying "I got your gift, thank you" is fine, but an envelope through the door is much more personal and likely to lead to later gifts.

On that note, I am very surprised that the American Cancer Society did not supply you with a packet including standard formats for this sort of thing. These places usually do for their events-based and grassroots fundraisers. I would check with the local sponsor and see what it is that you are not getting.

The post script on the above letter actually needs to come from the agency; as an independent contractor, as it were, you are not really obligated to assure the tax deductibility of the gift.
posted by nax at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your answers. You've been extremely helpful!
posted by JRGould at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2008

I also think you should check with the donor acquisitions or supporter care team at ACA. I have a strong feeling that they would LOVE to have the contact details of these donors to add to their database, both for re-solicitation at a later date, and I'm assuming they have a regular newsletter that these folks could be receiving.
They should also have a standard letter or template they can provide for you.
If this is a pure member-get-member situation and they want you to send a personal message without ACA logos, etc., then a few simple guidelines are: Use "you" statements vs "I" statements wherever possible, avoid statistics in favour of personal stories (example of a person this campaign can help/has helped, and encourage the person to consider becoming a member or monthly contributor to the organization.
posted by vodkaboots at 3:56 PM on July 3, 2008

« Older Flash video in portrait?   |   Rock Band Rocks my Wrists Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.