Gift Thank-Yous and Acknowledgements

Dear Kim,

As a new fundraiser for a mental health provider, I would like to know the etiquette and proper mode of thanking someone for either an in-kind gift or a monetary donation. It is bad form to send a pre-printed card to acknowledge the gift? I am referring to monetary gifts under $100.
—Ms. Manners, Jr.

Dear Junior Ms.,

Inadvertently, you have uncovered one of my pet peeves, which is the paucity of thank-you notes, and, when they are sent, the lack of graciousness that characterizes them. I really believe that the time is well spent sending personalized thank-you notes for EVERY gift, and writing a short personal note at the bottom of the card or letter. Your database should be able to merge the donors’ names and addresses onto the thank-you letter, which will include the amount the donor gave. If you only have dozens of donors (rather than hundreds or thousands), consider handwriting the whole note. Aside from the fact that thank-you notes are the right thing to do, they also inspire donor loyalty and do a lot to keep donors giving over and over.

Many organizations have tried to save time and money by not thanking smaller donors or using pre-printed forms. This is false economy. When people feel personally appreciated, they are more likely to give again, and to show more interest in the work of the organization. They are more likely to tell their friends about your group. Finally, writing thank-you notes is a wonderful introduction to fundraising for shy board members or for a volunteer with nice handwriting who can come in to your office once a week. Rather than a chore, sending thank you notes should be one of the highlights of our day.