In December, I was invited to a DonorsChoose open house at their new office. I mentioned to one of their members that I would love the opportunity to volunteer and help out in anyway. I was introduced to Rosanna Domino, yada yada yada, I am now one of many great volunteers who helps process student thank you letters to awesome donors.
This was a great chance to see some fantastic thank you letters. When I submitted my first thank you letter package, I wasn't sure if I was doing it correctly. Helping them process thank you letters allowed me to see the dos and don'ts of thank you letters. As a pre-k teacher, many of my students cannot write, however they can draw! The volunteering experience helped me realize this and I no longer stress or force my four year old children to write long letters.
I believe a lot of effort should be put into these letters as it may inspire donors to donate to your future projects. It also shows appreciation for their support. This experience has allowed me to come up with advice and things to keep in mind when your students write thank you letters.
Tips, Advice, and Things to Keep in Mind!
Make sure there are at least 5 letters for each donor who request them. Sometimes teachers may miscount and others may accidentally attach a worksheet/homework and mistake it for a letter. It would be very upsetting for a teacher to have to resend a letter for a mistake that can easily be prevented simply by double checking.
Oops! It looks like that paper behind the letters wasn't a thank you letter. It's a flyer that "accidentally" slipped into my pile of letters and I counted it as part of the student written thank you notes! Good thing I checked to make sure I had 5 letters.
This isn't intended for my donor! Good thing I counted to see if there were 5 letters and looked through every one of them to make sure.
Since it's here anyway, I'll shamelessly plug it! Visit my DonorsChoose.org page to support some fantastic projects inspired by the interest and needs of my Pre-K students!
Letters created for those who did not request them will not make its way to the intended person. If they did not request letters, there's no mailing information generated to send a package to them. It's fantastic for a teacher to show appreciation for all of their donors, but their efforts, as well as their students' hard work, will be wasted since these letter cannot be mailed out.
Separate the letters based on the donors. Before sending out my letters, I make sure the letters are separated with a paper clip, and on top, a post it with the name of the donor it's intended for. This makes it easier for the person processing them. They won't have to waste precious time sorting letters and have more time processes more packages!
Check over your students' letters! This isn't to look for spelling or grammatical errors. Those types of mistakes are meant for younger kids to make. A lot of spelling errors are really cute and innocent and puts a smile on a readers face, but make sure they don't look or can be mistaken for any foul language.
Also, check over to make sure there aren't any inappropriate information about your students. Last names, e-mail, addresses, social media handles, are things that should not be in their letters.
Remember, DonorsChoose suggests that any student impacted from the materials received can write a thank you letter. There's an after school program that uses my room with students from kindergarten, and pre-k. These kids can help write letters since they are impacted by the donor. I also love to invite previous students that are in after school to come by and play with the materials. It gives them a chance to take a break from the rigorous academics and allows them to be children. When they engage with the materials from a project, they can help write thank you letters.
I think this is very important. 5 amazing letters are way better than 80 sub-par ones. It's great if every student impacted from the project wants to write a thank you letter, but if their heart isn't in it, it shows to the person reading them.
All children are different. Each possess talents that can be used to craft an amazing thank you letter. If a child is very thoughtful and good with words, allow them to write a thoughtful letter. If a child is very artistic, allow them to draw a beautiful picture that expresses their gratitude. If a child is crafty, let them craft a card/letter to show their appreciation for the donor.
I've seen many letters that include similar messages but lack illustrations. It befuddles me when I see that these letters are from elementary grade level students. I know younger children would love the opportunity to illustrate and they should be given the chance to do so in these letters. Even older students would probably love to show off their artistic side for this purpose.
If it doesn't...it will be folded in many ways to make it fit. Make sure your letters can fit the standard 9x12 catalog size envelopes. Anything bigger will be folded to make it fit. Folding these letters may ruin them but there's no other way to send them. We do our best to make irregular sized letters fit but some can be a bit overwhelming to fold.
Allow students to create letters that show their appreciation. If you teach younger kids, it's okay to have them copy a message but allow them to individualize the letter and make them unique. This can be done by allowing them to draw and color pictures or anything that makes the letters stand out from each other if the messages are all the same. Please refrain from photo copying letters. Thank you letters from kids should be unique and thoughtful.
It may be difficult to get thank you letters from a pre-k or special education student. All children have the ability to produce something that can show their gratitude. The following advice comes from Rosanna Domino in regards to teachers who teach special needs students who have difficulty or struggle with thank you letters.
- It’s okay for the teacher to write out what students say if they cannot yet write. I think donors love this!
- You could use a template but individualize with one word or phrase – “I like the chairs because they are BLUE!”
- If you are worried that donors will not understand that your children cannot write, include a note about your classroom. Learning about how your students communicate and getting a peek into your classroom will make their sweet drawings even more meaningful to receive. (I think this is particularly valuable for special needs classes.)