You all have what you need for a great letter, but the organization of the information is sometimes hard to nail down. This week I've put together a template for a thank you letter and commented on what I think each of the sections is meant to accomplish.
Believe or not, the salutation can be a thorny subject. I worked for a Development Director who insisted that we use formal salutations because people went to a lot of trouble to get those PhDs and MDs and liked to have them used. I always thought it sounded too stuffy in these modern times (does anyone still go by "Mrs. John Doe"?), but hopefully you know your community best. I actually like to skip them sometimes and go straight to the -
This is where you say your small nonprofit solved a problem for someone in particular. But don't take more than a fairly short paragraph to do it. Example:
Mary was at her wit's end. The tornado had destroyed the house, leaving behind little but splintered wood and a half-crumbled chimney. She was able to save her cat "Lacey", but the evacuation shelter she would be staying at for the next couple of weeks didn't allow pets. What would become of Lacey? Mary faced a hard choice: give up on the shelter or give up on her beloved pet. Then an aid worker gave her our number.[expand on the situation and lead into the specific reasons you are grateful]
But again, don't take more than a fairly short paragraph to do it.
More than 5,000 people lost their homes in this recent disaster, but they didn't lose their best friends. We Save All Animals was able to find temporary shelter for 926 dogs, cats, hamsters and even goats and horses. They have clean and comfortable places to sleep, clean water and nutritious food. They are walked, groomed and comforted by WSAA staff and volunteers and their families no longer have to worry what will become of them. They are safe - and they owe their safety to you.[Specific reasons for gratitude]
This paragraph describes more specifically what you did with what they gave you. The detail gives a feeling of immediacy and participation:
Because we didn't have to raise funds before heading to the devastated area, we were able to move quickly when time was so important, with stores of blankets, feed, cages and crates. Within hours of being "boots on the ground" we were in vans and in the field. Our ability to be quick no doubt saved lives and we couldn't have done it without your generous foresight. Your donation - and those of others like you - to our 2010 emergency fund campaign gave us the money we needed to make sure these beloved companions will be safely cared for until they can be reunited with their families.[Closing/Call to Action]
Literally say 'Thank You.'
Thank you. Your donation really saved lives. And hearts.
We're here for the duration - there are many more animals to be saved and cared for. Please consider adding to the fund so that we can help them and be prepared for the next disaster and the next "Lacey" who needs help.Even though this has been set up as a template, you can see there's a lot of room here for personalizing. The most important thing is that you tell the story and how the donor fits into it and structure the letter so it moves smoothly from paragraph to paragraph. When that happens, the Ask can seem like the most natural next step. And the best part is, you have the stories and the passion. You only needed an outline. Hope it helps.
Tool of the Week: Charting Impact
Charting Impact is a framework for helping your (small) nonprofit set goals and develop strategies and define your capabilities for meeting those goals. You can then decide on your metrics for measuring process and determining your success. And it all starts with only 5 questions.