July 23, 2019

Penelope Burk tells a story of one donor who, after making a $100 first-time donation, receives a thank-you letter, picks up the phone to call the organization that sent it, and announces intent to make a five-figure gift.

Seem unlikely? Perhaps. But you haven’t read this kind of letter. 

Burk, the renowned author, researcher, presenter, and fundraising futurist, described such a letter at the 2019 Public Media Development and Marketing Conference (PMDMC) as an example of donor-centered fundraisingThis is relationship-focused fundraising that sustains donor loyalty and inspires more generous gifts by granting donors the three things they say they need every time they give. One of things donors want is to be acknowledged in a meaningful way; not as one of many donors, but as a single donor.

Here’s the type of thank-you letter many of us are sending today:

Dear Bruce:

Through your sponsorship, you are partnering with us to improve ABC Hospital and the care received here. On behalf of the hospital, and the patients who benefit from your generosity, I would like to thank you for your contribution of $5,000 on May 20th in support of the Foundation’s 19th Annual Golf Benefit. 

As a sponsor of this great event, you are making a difference!

We are honored and grateful to have your support as a sponsor of our biggest fundraising event of the year. The quality of healthcare delivered at ABC Hospital would not be as great if it were not for caring  and loyal supporters like you!


(signed by the hospital foundation development director)

It’s fine. But now read this one:

Manage digital buyers and agencies

Dear Bruce,

It took every ounce of restraint, but we promise we didn’t jump for joy on this bed when it arrived!

We did, however, want to show you what your sponsorship of this year’s Foundation Golf Benefit means to us and the patients we serve. We are the nursing team of the East Wing, 5th Floor, where your fabulous new bed has found a home. Its high-tech attributes have a direct benefit on the quality of care we can provide to patients but they make a huge difference to the staff, too – much safer and way easier to adjust.

The quality of healthcare delivered here at ABC Hospital wouldn’t be as great without you. Thanks for sponsoring our biggest event of the year.


(signed by the nurses of the 5th floor, East Wing)

Using roughly the same number of words, the second letter achieves a personalization – a profound sense of impact and relationship – that leave a donor feeling more loyal and more generous. Burk highlights other examples of inspiring letters in her book, Donor Centered Fundraising.

Every thank-you letter is an opportunity to connect a single donor with the singularity of their impact. Take a look at your thank-you letters and just imagine what they might become. 

Manage digital buyers and agencies