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use AI to write killer thank you letters

AI to the Rescue: Streamlining Thank You’s for More Donor Love

As fundraisers, we understand the power of a well-crafted thank-you note. It’s far more than a formality – a heartfelt acknowledgment cements the donor’s positive experience, strengthens relationships, and paves the way for continued generosity.

But let’s face it, finding time to personalize thank you can be a massive challenge, especially for short-staffed development offices. 

That’s where AI comes in, offering a helping hand to make our jobs easier and donor experiences even better.

Use AI to Write Thank You Letters

The Gail Perry Group has an excellent guide on writing thank-you letters that rock:  How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter.

Our template includes a solid list of do’s and don’ts that will help your acknowledgement notes shine.

In addition, we’ve created a free AI prompt that incorporates the best practices outlined in our Killer Thank You Letter Template. 

Here’s how to use this thank you letter template: 

Take the bolded text below, and add your customized donor information in the brackets. 

Then, drop the text into your favorite FREE generative AI tool such as ChatGPT or Google’s Gemini. Hit return/update and watch the magic happen.

As an experienced nonprofit fundraising expert, write a short thank you letter to [donor’s name] which will begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor and conveys gratitude using a tone that is warm, positive and upbeat. Include how the gift will be used [xxx], the name of your organization [xxx] and sign it by a high-ranking person [name/role] including their phone number [xxx]?

Requirements:

  • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
  • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. 
  • Say things like “I can’t begin to thank you enough for…” We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.” or “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
  • Use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
  • Use exclamation marks if appropriate, but don’t use too many of them.
  • Show some emotion.
  • Talk about the impact of the gift: what is the donor achieving by giving? 
  • Be concise. Don’t be formal or lofty.
  • Don’t start out with “on behalf of.”
  • Don’t use thank you letter jargon such as “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
  • Don’t start out with “Dear Friend”
  • Don’t ask anything else from your donor.

Here is what Google’s Gemini generated for Fred Flintstone, the executive director of a SPCA kennel near you.

Dear Barney Rubble,

I’m not sure if you’ve heard the barking and excited tail wags lately, but the word is definitely out at our SPCA! Thanks to your incredible generosity, we’re expanding our kennels.

We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year. Because of your gift, more furry friends will find safe, loving shelter while they await their forever families. It’s a beautiful thing, and you made it happen.

I can’t begin to thank you enough for your kindness. Your compassion is making a real difference in the lives of animals and the families who love them.

With warmest gratitude,

Fred Flintstone
Executive Director
123-456-7890

You have to admit that this is a lovely note. It’s one that will bring a smile to your donor’s face. It might even get posted on their refrigerator door! 

Use this template and let us know how it works for you and your team!  We’ve experimented with this template and keep getting happy, positive, charming letters out of it. 

Disclaimer: Certainly you’ll need to edit these letters so that they accurately reflect your organization’s work and mission. And, you can tinker with this template as well. But do keep the charm and gratitude as a central focus of the letter.

Is the AI Version too Emotional?

One person on our team suggested that the AI thank you letter turned out to be too emotional. Do you?

On our part, I think we can use more emotion in fundraising overall.  Especially when you consider giving as an emotional act by the donor – they are donating because they really care about something (your mission!).

So, if donating springs from an emotional feeling in the donor’s heart, then we can certainly respond with graciousness and a tad of emotion ourselves.

AI Will Never Replace Those Face-to-Face Moments

It’s important to remember that Artificial Intelligence is a tool, not a magic wand. 

While it can generate well-written drafts, you’ll always want to review and add your personal touch. 

And for those truly special relationships and significant gifts, nothing beats a series of thank yous, in person, via email and by snail mail. 

Remember the old motto: Find Seven Ways To Thank Your Donor and They Will Give Again! 

BOTTOM LINE:

By ethically using AI, we can free up time and energy to focus on what matters most – those personal conversations and building lasting connections with our donors. 

It’s a win for them, a win for your mission, and a win for the well-being of your professional fundraisers.

Remember to bookmark this article.

As always, sharing our weekly news and insights with you is a pleasure. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

Resources
How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter
How a Capital Campaign Planning Committee Develops Lead Donor Relationships
Thanking Donors – How to Show Your Donors Love

 

How to Write Thank Yous to Donors (That Work!) | GPG

Here’s an important question: Did your last thank you note to a donor make your donor feel:

JOYFUL to know their recent gift made a difference?

ASSURED the gift they made was a wise investment?

PROUD to be supporting such a worthwhile organization?

Remember, a thank you note isn’t just a show of manners. It’s your first step toward retaining this donor for the long run.

That’s why feelings are important.

How would you rate your organization’s thank you letters to donors?

Are they warm and gracious? Or do they sound grand and lofty, like someone giving a speech?

We expect your thank you’s can use some brushing up. Invariably, as fundraising consultants, we find that our clients are struggling with lame, tired sounding thank you notes. And they always ask us for help to create a killer thank you letter.

Why are thank you letters so important?

Because this note is your first communication to donors after they give, that’s why. It has the potential to give them confidence, build trust and make them happy that they gave to your cause.

Your letter serves many purposes. It can:

  • Assure your nervous donor that they made a wise investment.
  • Make your donor feel like they did the right thing.
  • Help her feel joyful that they made the gift.

But remember – warm, wonderful thank you letters are essential: It’s the first step in determining whether your donor stays loyal and renews their gift, or if they drop off and never give again.

Today, here’s our checklist of 14 steps to a warm, wonderful, killer thank you letter – one that makes your donor feel confident that they made a wise choice. 

1. Make your letter prompt.

A prompt thank you note impresses your donor. They know you made them a priority. 

It also indicates that your organization is well organized and well run. In this day of nervous donors, that gives you a significant leg up the next time you make a request.

2. Make your letter feel personal.

I like Penelope Burk’s suggestions from her landmark book, Donor Centered Fundraising. She lists 20 attributes of a great thank you letter that make it feel special and personal.

So what does personal look like? This makes the letter feel like it came from a real person.

  • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
  • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. Count how many times you use the word “you.”
  • A warm tone toward the donor (vs. a lofty formal, distant tone.)
  • Casual writing – use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
  • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

3. Start out in a personal way.

Start with the salutation.

Say: Dear Ms. Smith. Not: Dear Friend.

Then try to think of a memorable or an unusual opening line. Never begin your letter with, “On behalf of…” You don’t want to lose the reader from the beginning.

4. Use a warm tone.

Does your letter really sound sincere? Or is it full of “nonprofit-speak” with formal words and phrases?

Show yourself as a real person, and try to connect with the donor instead of staying so distant.

5. Be emotional.

Don’t bury it.  Giving is an emotional act by the donor. So it’s fine to wear your heart on your sleeve.

Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.

Say things like:

  • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
  • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
  • “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
  • “You were wonderful to renew your support . . .”

6. Thank smaller gifts warmly.

Smaller gifts should also get warm, prompt, personal thank you’s.

Remember, there are plenty of major gift prospects in your donor files who are giving you smaller gifts.

Treat these donors well by sending them killer thank you letters that build confidence and trust.  Then they may reward you with repeat and larger gifts.

7. Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

Is your donor a sustaining donor making monthly gifts? 

If possible, acknowledge the long term partnership your donor has with your organization.

In fact, celebrate it!

A donor will find it strange and off-putting if they have been giving to you for years and years and you don’t acknowledge it.

8. Sign the letter personally and write a note at the bottom.

You spent all that time writing notes on your appeal letters. By all means, also write a note on the thank you letter.

Remember, the PS is the most-read part of your killer thank you letter. Make it count.

9. Send more than one thank you letter.

The old fundraising motto is: “Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.”

For example, you can always ask different staffers to send an additional note.

This small step could help your organization stand out among a sea of other organizations.

10. Send an additional thank you letter from a board member.

I know organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters.

We highly recommend this strategy, because it helps connect trustees to the fundraising process.

11. Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.

The letter should be signed by the highest ranking person you can find – the chair of the board or a board member. It should not be signed by the wonderful, but lowly, development coordinator.

You could also have the artistic director or a performer sign the letter. Or a teacher if you are a school. Or a field officer if you are an environmental organization.

12. Send an additional thank you letter from a person helped by your organization.

We can’t think of anything more powerful. Your donor is really giving to create an impact, so help them feel this directly.

13. Reconfirm the purpose of the gift.

If the gift is for the library, for example, say something about what the library plans to achieve with the gift.

Most donors are worried that their gift will not be spent wisely.

Acknowledging how the money will be spent is essential – it helps build trust.

14. Include a contact name and number.

Including contact info is good manners, and it makes the donor feel a person connection to your organization.

For example, it would be the head of the library if that’s where the donor directed her gift.

Bottom Line: How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Remember: your overall goal is to keep your donor giving and giving over many years. Your thank you letter is an essential first step in building a long and happy relationship of generous support from your donor.

This is how you create a sustainable fundraising program – developing consistent and repeated gifts from loyal donors who are passionate about your work.

Do’s and Don’ts

Thank you letter DO’s

  • Be really, really prompt.
  • Get the donor’s name right.
  • Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.
  • Show some emotion.
  • Convey gratitude.
  • Refer to how the gift will be used.
  • Send several thank you notes from different people.
  • Include additional thank you letters from board members.
  • Send a thank you letter from someone helped by your organization.
  • Sign it with a real signature.
  • Be positive and upbeat.
  • Include a contact name and number if the donor has questions.
  • Handwrite it if you know the donor well.
  • Begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor.

Thank You Letter DON’TS

  • Start out with “on behalf of.”
  • Ask for another gift.
  • Use thank you letter jargon: “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
  • Start out with Dear Friend.
  • Ask anything else from your donor right now.
  • Misspell their name.
  • Have errors in grammar, punctuation or misspellings.
  • Go on and on. Ditch the verbosity. Do be concise.
  • Keep selling.
  • Re-use copy that you used in the solicitation letter to talk about your programs.
  • Be formal. Or lofty.
  • Be vague about how the money will be used.
  • Sign it yourself if you can get a higher-ranking person to sign it.

As always, sharing our weekly news and insights with you is a pleasure. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.