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7 Mistakes Nonprofits Make With Their Thank You Notes

7 Mistakes Nonprofits Make With Their Thank You Notes


Thank you notes are often dismissed as a trivial display, a social nicety to be dispensed with as quickly as possible. This assumption leads nonprofits to take the path of least resistance. They send fast, generic emails instead of more heartfelt statements. This conveys the words, but certainly not the sentiment. 

 In truth, thank you notes can be enormously powerful communications capable of boosting donation and volunteerism rates. But you need to understand their value. Below you’ll find the seven most common mistakes nonprofits make with their thank you notes. Learn to avoid them, and you’ll find that gratitude is immensely useful for pursuing your goals.

SEE ALSO:  Thank You Notes for Volunteers | Cards and Templates

1) THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT GRATITUDE IS AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY

This first mistake is the biggest because if you don’t recognize the value of thank you notes as a strategy you’ll never be able to reap the rewards. 

 People give their time and money to causes that mean something to them. They don’t enter into the relationship lightly. How you care for this emotional connection can have deep ramifications for future giving.  

 Approaching each thank you opportunity with the solemnity and authenticity it deserves helps to nurture these seedlings. The deeper they nest, the more fruit they’ll bear. What’s critical is that nonprofits recognize that thank you notes are an opportunity to build and deepen relationships.

A guy looking at his watch and cursing because he's late.

2) THEY SEND THANK-YOUS LATE

People appreciate being thanked when they do something worthy of attention. But they appreciate it less when it comes too late

 If you let too much time elapse between an event and its recognition, your efforts will ring false when you finally engage them. They’ll either judge that you were careless with the relationship or that you didn’t think enough of them to warrant action in an appropriate span. In either case, the relationship may be damaged — the polar opposite of what you were hoping. 

 To avoid doing more harm than good with your thank-yous, create processes to ensure that recognition goes out in a reasonable amount of time. You don’t want to create a situation where sending out thank yous is more damaging than not sending them at all.

SEE ALSO:  How Do You Start A Late Thank You Note?

3) THEY ONLY SEND THEM TO TOP DONORS

Choosing to send thank you notes to your high-dollar donors only is another way to cheapen the value of your gratitude. It’s a shortsighted decision that fails to recognize the world's interconnectedness. Spreading your appreciation around instead of concentrating it with your higher donors creates more opportunities for future donations. You simply don’t know where your next significant contributor is hiding. 

 There’s a deeper ethical consideration to look at as well. Budget donors may be giving as much as they can. In fact, they may be donating more, as a percentage of income, than more well-heeled donors. Don’t denigrate their contribution by an act of omission simply because the dollar amount is small by comparison.

SEE ALSO:  How Long Should a Handwritten Thank You Note Be?

Someone handwriting a card.

4) THEY DON’T HAND WRITE THEM

Nonprofits often operate with too few resources while pursuing impressive goals. As a result, they save where they can. Instead of taking the time and care required to handwrite their thank you notes, they either have them printed in generic thank you mailers or reduce them to emails. 

 When they diminish the quality of the thank you, they limit its effectiveness. The sentiment is cheapened when it arrives in a featureless email or a one-size-fits-all, sterile printed mailer. Handwriting personalizes a message, increasing its emotional value. The communication feels person-to-person instead of from a large organization. 

 Failure to handwrite is understandable. The time invested to hand-pen dozens or hundreds of thank you cards is significant. That’s why you should automate the process. Check the bottom of this article to see how Simply Noted makes handwritten communication as easy as email.

SEE ALSO:  Should a Thank You Note Be Handwritten?

5) THEY INCLUDE OVERUSED PHRASES

Boilerplate phrases like “Thank you for your recent gift” and “On behalf of our organization” lack emotional authenticity. They’re overused and ring hollow when they dominate your thank you messages. 

 Instead of relying on generic sentiments, try speaking from the heart. Thank your donors, volunteers, and other participants as you would a valued friend. Create thank-yous that are as unique as your organization. They’ll feel more authentic and will help deepen — and increase — your donor base.

6) THEY INCLUDE STUFFY LEGAL LANGUAGE

Your donors likely know that their gifts are tax-deductible. If they don’t, a simple mention is all that’s required. You shouldn’t bog down your thank yous with unnecessary complications because you risk watering down the sentiment and distracting your readers from the message’s intent. 

 Save in-depth legal instructions for other communications. Let your thank you notes do the job they’re intended to do, free of other motives.

7) THEY NEVER EXPLAIN HOW THEY’LL USE THE DONOR’S GIFT

Donors like to know that their contributions are accomplishing useful ends. You can increase their engagement by detailing specific accomplishments when thanking them for their donation. This creates personal stakes for the donor. They’ll feel they have “skin in the game” because they know precisely what their money accomplished. 

 It’s a mistake to gloss over these details. Your readers won’t be offended, of course, but you will miss out on the chance for a more meaningful connection with your supporter.

SEE ALSO:  How to Write a Thank You Note - Best Tips and Examples

A group of tasteful thank you cards featuring plants in teacups.

HOW TO MAKE HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU NOTES AS EASY AS EMAIL

You don’t need to handwrite your nonprofit’s thank you cards to enjoy the benefits of handwritten notes. Simply Noted has developed a fleet of advanced handwriting robots that can pen thousands of thank you notes automatically, complete with personalization.  

 How does it work? Each handwriting machine holds a real ballpoint pen. Its loops and strokes are guided by proprietary, AI-powered smart fonts that perfectly recreate the subtle variations in spacing, size, and shape that distinguishes real handwriting from standard handwriting fonts. 

 With Simply Noted, you can quickly send one, ten, or thousands of handwritten thank-yous as quickly as sending an email. You can automate the entire process by connecting your CRM or other marketing software. Our integrations unlock the full power of handwritten nonprofit thank you notes.

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