Today I received an email from one of my clients. She wrote, “What’s the “correct” way to thank donors? Do I send an auction thank you letter when I receive the item … AND after the gala? Or is it OK to just send one letter? I don’t want to be redundant, but I also don’t want to be rude.”
I thought her question was insightful. She’s a young, hip Development Director, and she’s got manners. Good manners can build your auction’s reputation for the long haul.
Second, this question brings us back to the human aspects of running an event. Auctions have so many “moving parts” to oversee (food & beverage, decorations, invitations, set-up, item collection, security, seating charts), that we can quickly forget that auctions begin with individual donors.
Think about it — benefit auctions wouldn’t exist without them. It’s the donors (not buyers) who stepped forward first to support the organization. Before the invitations were sent or anyone set out decorations, a donor stepped forward to help. Donors start the benefit auction process by giving a gift. That gift is given with the expectation that the non-profit will sell it to the best of their ability, thereby raising money to further the cause. How generous!
In light of this, it would be hard to thank donors too much.
For the quick and “correct” way to thank a donor, here’s what is typical.
First, send an email thanking the donor when the item is received.
The first thank you is commonly sent via email.
And the reality is that even though you send a thank you via email, you’ll usually also have some additional contact with the donor because often the donor forms are not completed to the degree you need. You might need to get additional information on a vacation home (“Number of baths?”), or clarification of a store address. Even small donations often require follow-up.
Second, when the auction is over, send an auction thank you letter to donors. (This letter is on letterhead).
If the item sold well, include the sale price in the letter. Something like, “Your $2000 case of wine sold for $2500,” will make any donor feel good. When you have shown that you are taking care of your donor’s merchandise and selling it well, it encourages the donor to trust you with bigger donations the following year.
If the donation sold for an average price, write something more generic, such as, “Your donation helped NON PROFIT XYZ surpass our goal / meet our fundraising goal / was an increase over last year / etc.” It’s important to share your success with the donors.
Consider hand-writing a brief comment or sentence on the letter, too. It might be: “The necklace was stunning!” or “Glad you were able to attend the event.” or “Your donation was especially nice this year.” Something personal, but sincere.