Growth with Gratitude

Thank-you notes are a crucial step in the fundraising process for cultural heritage institutions. Build them into the work flow for all your developmental appeals. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Send thank-you notes promptly. Most fundraising experts recommend within 48 hours of the donation’s arrival.
  • Hand written notes are best. Avoid using cards or stationary with the words “Thank You” pre-printed. If this phrase is built into the note, it beats your words to the punch. Here’s what Miss Manners recently had to say on the subject. A good thank-you note “means that you are actually using paper, and that the words ‘thank you’ are not printed on it, but written by your own hand.”
  • Use name recognition advantageously. The notes are most effective when a high-ranking official in your organization signs them, or- even better- a staff or board member, whom the donor is likely to know on some level. Some organizations build thank-you-note writing into board meetings routinely.
  • A compelling image can help nurture the emotional connection between the donor and your institution. The drawing above is a thank-you note the Nasher Museum staff received from a school group. Especially if school children benefit in some way from donor funds, their artwork can be a great source for thank-you-note imagery. Some institutions, such as East Carolina University, have produced touching YouTube videos to distribute to donors and to showcase some of the programs that ECU’s fundraising campaign enhanced. These links are convenient to share through email correspondence and can be very effective at helping to build donor relationships. But videos should not replace the handwritten note.
  • Gratitude is part of building relationships with donors. Hopefully, a thank-you note will not be the last correspondence you have with the donor. Larger donations warrant calls, visits, and/or personal invitations to attend special events throughout the year.
  •  There is a raging debate among fundraising professionals about whether or not to include a self-addressed envelope for further donation into a thank-you package. Click here (and be sure to read the comment section) for good pro and con arguments. Rather than asking for more money right away, try to open lines of communication regularly and invite feedback from donors, as well as other community members. The more people who want to invest themselves (financially or otherwise) in your institution, the healthier it will be.

About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on September 21, 2012, in museums and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great information, as always. I’m not in the museum business, but I love learning new things.   One thought about including a method for donating in a thank you card, I vote against it. My college solicits donations often. If they solicited less often, I bet they would get more donations.   Thanks again.   Debbi Knaus


    • Great points, Debbi. Also, lots of solicitations can lead to skepticism that donation $$ are really going to the cause, rather than to direct mailings and higher admin costs. Although some professional fundraisers assert subsequent solicitations lead to more $$, others believe the extra “asks” repel more than they attract.

  2. Thank you for addressing the important subject of the thank-you process. All too often, people don’t give much thought about meaningful gestures of appreciation. That’s unfortunate. Showing gratitude is an essential part of the fundraising process. It’s part art, and part science. You’ve shared some terrific tips here. Thank you for referencing my blog post on the subject. I’m glad to know you found worthy of sharing with your readers.

    Michael (

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