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Acknowledgment Excellence in 5 Easy Steps

Let's face it, we have amazing jobs. We work with some of the most generous people in the world. We get to experience their generosity in action and see lives changed for the better. And the donors feel it too. They love giving, and in return, their needs are simple. Most donors, want a simple expression of gratitude, a thank you note. I was reminded of this just the other day by a leader of our board. He was asked, what's the most meaningful thank you you've ever received? And he replied that it was hand written thank you notes. I often talk about how they are the gold standard in our industry, the one thing donors request more than anything else. But what makes a good thank you, and why do we muck it up all the time?                                                  5 Steps to Great Acknowledgements 1. Personalized and human, with a warm tone and phraseology that is endearing to the recipient. It also doesn't have to be on fancy stationary with a seal at the top to grab a donor's attention. I like monarch or executive letterhead best - keep it simple - and PROMPT! Get their name right the first time and no names with strike throughs to make it look less formal - UGH! 2. Keep the minutia at bay. This is a thank you note, not a receipt - the two are separate and very distinct - so NO dollar amounts ever. They don't need pledge details and they don't need IRS language. It's a thank you, not a replacement for a form. 3. Brevity is best. Think thank you note, not acknowledgment letter - 6 sentences is just fine, more than two paragraphs and no one is reading it! 4. Focus on the donor, not your organization! No one needs to know your upcoming events, that the leaves have turned color, or what your ranking is - you never put that stuff in your thank you note to grandma - why bore a donor with it? 5. The hand written note reigns supreme. If your formal acknowledgment isn't the best, then emphasize to your leadership that the hand jotted note at the bottom is essential - let them know not to just sign, but to enhance! What do you think makes a thank you special? I would love to hear your thoughts below. Cheers, Lynne


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