Promptly send a thank you letter acknowledging the amount of the gift and thanking the donor. The key here is to send out the thank you letter as fast as you can. (More on how to mail out your thank you letters fast, even if it’s busy and you have many to mail all at once, in a moment…)
In your letter, mention that they will soon receive a packet of information about your organization. Call it a “Welcome Packet” or other suitable name. Tell the donor when they should expect to receive their welcome packet; consider saying “within a few days” or “within a week or less”. Then make absolutely sure you mail it soon enough for the donor to receive it within the time frame you have promised.
It is important to note that at this point the donor barely knows you. They probably sent you a donation because they know a little about your mission and probably have at least some degree of passion or interest in the goals you seek to accomplish. But they do not truly know your organization. They will probably continue to send you future donations if they trust you and your competence, and you have to earn that trust. Demonstrating that you do what you say you are going to do, when you say you will do it, is a terrific way to begin to earn that trust!
Take inventory of your welcome packet, or develop one now if it does not yet exist. Consider including these components…
** A brochure describing the mission of the organization and some of the key activities. If you are able to include photos of people who have benefited from what you do, and/or photos of tangible accomplishments, do so. Consider including a caption reminding the donor that it is their donations that make this outcome possible.
** A checklist which the donor can fill out and send in, indicating their areas of interest, ways they are willing to become involved, and maybe an open ended fill-in-the-blank, ie., “please have someone call me about_______________ .”
** Does your organization produce newsletters? Include a copy of the latest.
** A card listing phone and email contacts for folks the donor may want to contact, such as your development director, planned giving officer, donor records contact, volunteer coordinator, and so on.
** Information about your planned giving program if you have one. At the very least, tell the donor how they can include your organization in their will. Planned giving programs can be complex but even the smallest charity should be able to ask for donors to remember them in their will.
** If you have an automatic monthly giving program, include a document explaining how that works and a form for enrolling in it.
** if you include anything inviting the donor to fill something out and send it back, then include a reply envelope.
Develop the ability to rapidly send the initial thank you letter, even if you get many gifts at the same time. Most offices will have a computer with MIcrosoft Word installed. You can use Word’s mail merge function to create the template for your thank you letter, then enter all the donation information (donor name and address, salutation, amount of gift) into a spreadsheet. Then just link the spreadsheet to your template.
If you are managing a very large number of first time gifts (this works for ongoing gift acknowledgements too), then you want to make sure that the outgoing appeal mailing includes some unique value printed on the response device. You can set up a spreadsheet with a lookup table using these unique values as the index column. Formulas in the spreadsheet populate the donor’s name and address information in cells of a row, based on the value of that unique variable. When gifts arrive, you can enter each gift’s unique value into the spreadsheet, and the spreadsheet then populates the other information needed for your thank you mail merge template. Yes, it is a little complex to set up, but we have done this and we can assist you.