Here are a few do's and don'ts from our webinar called "Writing Thank-You Letters That Inspire Future Gifts."

THE DON'Ts

Don't start with a tired and predictable opening. You can do a lot better than, "On behalf of. . . " or "Thank you for your gift of . . ."

Don't speak in generalities about how the gift will be used. Don't just cough up your mission statement or a bulleted laundry list of all programs. Give supporters some specifics about how you will use the money.

Don't be depressing. Donors want to know that their gifts are helping, not that the gift isn't making a difference because the need is so great. That's the message you send if you blather on about how great the need is in your thank you letter.

THE DOs

Do explain how the gift will be used. I know it's hard to be specific sometimes, especially when it's general support, but do your best to convey how the money is most likely to be spent.

Do explain what's next. Let your supporters know when they can expect to hear from you next. Will they be getting your newsletter or a report back on the program they just funded? Will they be invited to events?

Do make it personal. Thank you letters should be from one person to another. Personalize both the greeting and the signature block.

Love real examples? I posted on my blog three nonprofit thank you emails I've recently from One Warm Coat, the Nature Conservancy, and PETA that I think are great examples for three different reasons. (I strongly encourage you to copy the Nature Conservancy video idea).

This article first appeared in our weekly Nonprofit Marketing Tips e-newsletter on February 2, 2011.