How to Write a Donor Appreciation Letter

How do you follow up on a lead?

At Stelter, we have the privilege of working with hundreds of unique nonprofits…and we’ve heard hundreds of unique answers to that question.

“I call them.”

“I send them a thank-you email.”

“I add a data point to their entry in our database.”

“I don’t do anything.”

When a donor returns a reply device from your print mailing or downloads a digital guide from your website, you can make a connection.

Knowing that your time is valuable, we’ve crafted starter copy for your follow-up.

We used this outline for a client who received brochure requests from a direct response piece. They also received a surprise check and inquiries to learn more about estate planning. The letter’s basic flow worked for each scenario.

This letter draws heavily on the concepts of philanthropic psychology taught by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy. Their underlying philosophy is that the main objective of fundraising marketing should be to make a donor feel good—to empower their senses of competence, autonomy and connectedness. You should praise the donor not for what they give, but for who they are.

Overall, the letter recognizes that the desire to leave a legacy is based more on emotion (good feelings from giving, impact on the world beyond donor’s life) than on logic (effectiveness of org, tax benefits).

The basic flow of the letter is to:

  1. Show gratitude
  2. Be specific about the qualities of the donor
  3. Connect the donor to your organization
  4. Confirm that an estate gift is a good way to impact the future
  5. Touch on the practical appeal of an estate gift
  6. Boost the donor’s value
  7. Show how the donor’s actions make a difference
  8. Show gratitude
  9. Give the donor autonomy

…all in less than 200 words.

Get your starter letter today!

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