Acknowledgments are one of the fundamentals of Donor Relations. Doing them—and doing them well—are crucial to your organization's success. Top-performing donor relations shops understand that there's more to the acknowledgment process than simply saying, "thank you."
Here are our Top 5 must-haves when it comes to preparing your acknowledgments—and by acknowledgments, we mean thank you letters, not gift receipts:
Templates or templated language. You should have opening and closing sentences at your disposal, along with prepared statements for the most common gift designations. Your common designations may include gifts that support research, scholarships, patient care, specific fundraising initiatives, and of course, unrestricted gifts. And don't forget planned gifts. Have two or three sentences, statements, phrases ready to go so you can use them repeatedly in your letters. And yes, you'll need to refresh them from time to time and be sure you're not repeating them to the same donor.
A plan for pledge payments, especially when multiple payments occur in the same year. The industry norm is to acknowledge the first and the final payment instead of every payment. The especially true with corporate gifts. Don't spend your time crafting lovely messages for each gift when your letter will likely go unread and directly into a file.
A plan for recurring gifts such as payroll deduction. We recommend an all-inclusive year-end acknowledgment versus multiple letters throughout the year.
When to say when. Most organizations are fortunate enough to have those donors who give generously and give frequently. There is a point during the year when we, as Donor Relations professionals, need to encourage (read: politely tell!) leadership to send the donor a handwritten note. If there's a strong relationship, they can even pick up the phone to express thanks. A quick ThankView message is another great option.
Guidelines. We could have made this point #1, but we wanted to be sure you read the others. It goes without saying that you need clear parameters around the dollar amount of a gift that warrants a custom acknowledgment from your leadership versus the gift amount that receives a less personalized message. And then there are your VIPs. The donors for whom the guidelines go out the window, and we acknowledge every gift they make or for whom we at least adjust the guidelines. Think trustees, board of directors, employees/executive-level employees of your organization, etc. And refer to #4 when needed.