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You know you work for a nonprofit organization when the holiday season makes you think of “year-end giving strategies” instead of “sipping hot cocoa by the fire.”  Roughly 30% of annual giving to nonprofit organizations occurs in December, so it’s natural that we want to turn our attention to “those” holidays and skip right past November’s.

But if you did, you’d be missing a valuable opportunity to thank the foundations and corporate funders who have supported you the rest of the year.

Take a few minutes—maybe make that cup of hot cocoa!—and get ready to learn how to give thanks to the foundations who keep your organization going.

  • Use the excuse

 You likely acknowledged the funder when you received their gift.  Maybe you kept it professional—a cordial letter or an end-of-program report—or maybe you called them and squealed loudly with excitement the second you received their gift.  Regardless of how you initially handled it, there’s no harm in sending another acknowledgment—and there may be some gain!

Use the holiday season as your excuse, and use the template below as a starting point:

As we are counting our organization’s blessings this Thanksgiving, we think of XYZ Foundation.  We want to thank you for your _____ (grant, event sponsorship, naming gift, matching grant, etc.—name their contributions).  Without your generosity, we would have never been able to ____ (name something specific your organization accomplished as a result of their gift).  You are truly a valuable partner in our efforts to (briefly describe your mission), and we are so grateful for you!

Writing a card like this accomplishes four things:

  • It gives you an excuse to communicate with the funder,
  • It expresses gratitude for their support of your mission,
  • It builds a deeper relationship with the funder, and
  • it reminds them of your organization’s mission and work.
  • Use their name

If you want to build a long-term relationship with a foundation, customize a communication piece for each funder every single time.

Yes, it is easier to produce one generic “Thanksgiving” piece and send it to every funder on your list, but what is more meaningful to YOU when you check your mail: a form letter addressed to “Your Name (or Resident”), or a personalized letter in a dear friend’s handwriting?

Likewise, “Dear Jones Family Foundation” will attract the reader’s attention and seems more authentic than “Dear Valuable Supporter.”

Note that you will win double points if you can direct your “thank you” card to a specific person at the organization.  If you do this, make sure you use the person’s name initially and also include the foundation’s name elsewhere in your letter.  Example: “Roberta, we want to thank you for the Jones Family Foundation’s support of our…”)

  • Use visuals.

    Your thank you card should include at least one of the following visual elements:

    -Photos of your work in action
    -Scanned feedback expressing gratitude in your clients’ own handwriting
    -Drawings/artwork from participants, especially if you work with children. (Be creative: I support a bird sanctuary that sends talon prints from the birds it helps!)
    -Related stock photos accompanying client feedback or a client success story
    -Have your CEO or Director of Development sign the card in his/her own handwriting.

    We recommend a “snail mail” card (and lots of fascinating research backs up the use of print).

    However, a virtual thank you is better than nothing.  If you are e-mailing your thanks, keep these two tips in mind:

    1) Send your thanks from an individual’s email account—such as your Executive Director’s—instead of a general organizational email account.

    2) Consider embedding a video message.

  • Use the opportunity.

    This is NOT an “ask” piece—its goal is to thank your funder! Still, in your second-to-last paragraph, you can use the opportunity to remind the foundation how they can get more involved with your organization.  For example:

    -Remind them that they are always welcome to make a site visit.
    -Give them your Development Director’s phone number/email address and remind them that their questions are always welcome.
    -Invite them to attend your next event.

We hope we have convinced you of the value of a well-timed thanks.  We are thankful for YOU and for all of our clients at Pathways to Growth!