Thank you letters are a tried and true method of engaging with your donors. In a recent survey we found that 100% of respondents ask for some form of information from students after they have been awarded a scholarship and 95% of them ask for thank you letters for the donor. They are improtant for donor stewardship because they provide a personal touch to fund reports sent to donors and ultimately encourage continued giving.
Because thank you letters are such a no brainer, over the past few years we have seen a shift in the thank you letter collection process to improve their quality. So, what do thank you letters look like in 2017?
They're submitted online
Gone are the days of students having to physically walk into the scholarship office and hand write a thank you letter. 52% of our survey respondents said they collect all of their thank you letters online. This solves a couple of problems. First, it makes it easier for students to submit them increasing the chance of them completing it. Second, it allows for the opportunity for the letters to be edited by scholarship administrators after they have been submitted. Administrators can go in and fix spelling and grammar to ensure the donor is receiving a quality letter. It also allows administrators to place the content in a clean looking, institution branded format that will look much nicer to a donor than a plain text document.
They have a uniform template
A growing trend we're seeing is that many institutions are helping students create better quality thank you letters by providing questions or a template to help students think more critically about their letters. The questionnaire format allows administrators to format the provided student information any way they choose, whether that be in a letter or student profile format.
On the other hand, providing students with a template gives them a road map to follow and helps to ensure all of the information you would like to provide your donors is in the thank you letter. And, both of these options still give administrators the option of editing later for grammar and spelling.
Thank you letters allow students to communicate to donors exactly how the scholarship will impact their life. But, they also open up an opportunity for the student to relate directly to the donor. 80% of our survey respondents said they provide information to students about their specific scholarship donor, whether that be in an online profile or a donor overview they send to the student. This provides some background for the student to tailor their letter to the donors interests and make a bigger impact overall.
They contribute to a larger stewardship effort
While thank you letters are important, they should not be the end-all-be-all of your donor stewardship efforts. Most institutions provide a fund or financial report for their donors on an annual basis and 77% of survey respondents host an event for donors and recipients, whether that be a luncheon, meet & greet, or awards ceremony. Successful donor stewardship should reach donors on multiple levels including an emotional and a financial level.