Part II: Fundraising Etiquette, Back to Basics

fundraising etiquette

In the second part of our fundraising series, we cover the certain sense of decorum and etiquette that it takes for fundraising to be truly successful.

When raising funds in support of your organization, taking a step back to the basics can make all the difference in repeat annual donors and/or conversion of one-time supporters into recurring monthly donors. This process doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, timely and sincere thank you letters are one of the most important steps in the fundraising lifecycle.

Follow these four basic, but essential, tips to make your donors feel appreciated and willing to donate again in the future.

1. Timely Thank You Letters

Thank you letters should be mailed out within 48 hours after the donation is made. Sometimes things get in the way, making it impossible to get them out in two days. This is understandable, but still try to get them out within a week. The short time frame will show the donor that you received the donation and that you appreciate their help. It will reinforce your charity’s name and make you more memorable.

Sending out thank you letters in a timely manner will impress your donors with your efficiency and show that your gratitude was not an afterthought. Most people will be much more willing to donate again if they feel appreciated, but could be completely turned off if they feel you are taking them for granted.

To maximize your time efficiency, you can create thank you letter templates before you begin fundraising, as part of your campaign package. If you have hundreds of thank you letters to send, this could potentially save you hours of work and help you get the letters out sooner. However, be aware that these should just be templates, and that each letter should be personalized and tailored to each individual donor.

“Donors notice how long it takes a nonprofit to send a thank you letter. Nonprofits who send written thank you letters within a few days of receiving a donation stand out to donors. By sending a prompt response, you are showing the donor you appreciate the gift and you are demonstrating that your organization has a strong administrative infrastructure to efficiently manage its fundraising operations,” advised Cynthia Russell of CrossSector Partners.

2. Timely Deposit of Checks

Depositing your donor’s checks in a timely fashion goes right along with sending out timely thank you letters. It lets the donors know that their contribution is not only needed, but appreciated as well. It’s important to deposit these checks as quickly as possible, so donors can balance their checkbooks as well.

Holding on to the checks for more than a few days can pose problems. Aside from potentially losing the check, other accounting issues could arise, and it makes it harder for the donor to trust the usefulness of their donation. Make it as easy and as painless as possible for people to donate. People love to feel needed and help a good cause, but if they have trouble making their donations or feel like it is unappreciated, they’re not likely to donate again.

3. Thank the Correct Person and “Know Your Donors”

Make sure to personalize each thank you letter to the specific donor. Address them by name, and never call a Ms. a Mr., or vice versa. Do your research thoroughly. Mention how great it was to see them at the last event and the length of time they’ve been a donor. You can tailor each letter even more by adding personal touches about something going on in their lives, like a new baby or a promotion at work.

There are donor management systems that allow you can create to keep track of all of your donors and their participation with your company. You can use these to record information about your donors, like their last donation, if they have volunteered, and events going on in their lives.

When you sit down to write your thank you letters, take the time to combine the information from your donor records system with the thank you letter templates you created as part of your campaign package. Knowing your donors and what is important to them will help you to personalize each thank you letter. This will make them feel appreciated and increase the chances that they will donate again.

4. Compelling Thank You Letters

Appealing to your donors’ interests is a great way to get them to donate to your cause in the first place, and writing a compelling thank you letter is another chance to tell your story and remind your donors why they originally donated.

People love to know where their money is going, and the best way to help your donors visualize this is to tell a story. Tell them how their donation specifically helped a worthy student get the school supplies he or she needed to be successful in school. The story doesn’t have to be long, it just has to have enough truth and detail to let donors know their donation made a difference. You can also include a graphic illustrating the accomplishments your organization achieved during the year. Show your donor how you measure success and how their gift helped you achieve your key goals.

Depositing checks and sending out thank you letters in a timely manner are two of the most crucial and basic tactics you can employ to make your donors feel valued. Personalize each thank you letter to the specific donor and include information about where their money went. Using basic fundraising etiquette goes a long way towards getting people to donate again and again.


Cynthia Russell is Principal of CrossSector Partners, a management consulting firm that helps new and emerging nonprofits develop fundraising strategies, create strategic plans, and improve operations. Cynthia has worked with hundreds of nonprofits to develop growth plans, raise funds, and steward donors. Prior to launching CrossSector Partners, Cynthia held executive leadership positions with nonprofits in the fields of education, community development, the environment, and health care. She currently serves on the board of several nonprofits and is a frequent speaker on effective nonprofit management practices and philanthropy.

Author: Kelly Campbell
Kelly Campbell is an Agency Growth Consultant based in New York. A former digital agency owner for 14 years, she helps creative and tech agencies and their leaders transform—focusing on purpose, people, positioning, pipeline and profitability. Kelly is also an IA/SEO consultant to Facebook and NASA. She writes for Website Magazine, speaks at digital marketing and agency growth conferences across the U.S., and has been featured in The New York Times, Woman Entrepreneur and Forbes. She is the host of THRIVE: Your Agency Resource, a bi-weekly video podcast sponsored by Workamajig that helps agency owners navigate growth.

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