Lessons from Ms. Hinckley’s Thank-You Note

I recently had the opportunity to make a donation through DonorsChoose.org, and I have to say that I loved the experience. Along with a few other donors I’ve never met, I helped buy a globe for Ms. Hinckley’s classroom in my native hometown of Tucson.

The best part of making the gift was the email that donors receive after the goal is reached: (I’ve removed the links, but reproduced the note below):


The project you supported — We’d Love a Globe! — reached its funding goal and will soon become a reality in the classroom!

Ms. Hinckley, the teacher, is thrilled and wrote you this thank-you note: “I am so grateful for your generous donations. Your generosity is an inspiration to me. This globe… “

Read the entire note and reply with a message of your own.

The best is yet to come,
The DonorsChoose.org Team

P.S. Have you heard about the new, more convenient way to give at DonorsChoose.org?

You can see a screenshot with graphics here.

Despite the fact that the email is sent automatically, the use of this technology doesn’t overpower the personal message. That is, communication between real people comes first — and the experience is almost flawless.

Here are just a few of the things that are going on:

  1. The email is personalized specifically for the recipient.
  2. It includes a personal note from the actual person — the teacher — who asked for the gift.
  3. The text in the email is short and human.
  4. There’s a post-script with a strategic marketing message of direct relevance to the rest of the email.
  5. The email template is well-branded with DonorsChoose visuals, yet also lightweight and presumably unlikely to bounce due to large file size.
  6. The subject line is also both personal (a thank-you note) and personalized (referring to the specific donation on 11/17).

I’ve had some good conversations with DonorsChoose communications and social media team members this year about their engagement email process, and I learned it’s one of the things they’ve worked the hardest on with their service. Now I’ve had a chance to see it in action and I’m impressed.

How can your organization improve the email communications you send to volunteers and donors? Pick one component, just one, and improve it. Then, pick one more. Eventually, you’ll have a communications strategy for humans, not machines.

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