Sending a President’s Letter (or Executive Director’s Letter) at the beginning of the year helps donors know the impact they made in the previous year. It’s a wonderful engagement tool and a way for donors to feel gratitude for what their donation accomplished. For lapsed donors, it can help reengage them in the new year.

Unfortunately, few nonprofits write the President’s Letter in the correct point of view. Too many write the letter only from the point of view of the nonprofit – almost to the point of bragging – and miss the mark on accomplishing the goals of the President’s Letter. As I mentioned, the President’s Letter will help the nonprofit by:

  1. Thanking donors for their support
  2. Telling donors about the impact they made
  3. Deepening relationships with donors

In this article, I’m going to explore an example President’s Letter (changed to a fake nonprofit, HopeWorld) and then explore how to rewrite the letter to be focused more on the audience, the donor. The key to writing a great President’s Letter is to know the audience you’re writing the letter for and tailor how you’re communicating to the point of view of the donor. In the example, you’ll see that it is very focused on the accomplishments of the organization and how great they are:

Subject: We are transforming education and saving lives!

Dear friends,

As we enter a new year, I want to take a moment of time to share encouraging news from our work in the field and to share the accomplishments HopeWorld has made in 2019. The most exciting news is our work in Africa has saved many lives! Recent data from our partners on the ground have shown a 96.4% improvement in children’s education since we began supporting them.

Throughout 2019, I witnessed 35 partner schools double the quality of their education thanks to hands-on support from HopeWorld. This dramatic increase in education resulted in more than 30,000 children receiving life-changing support in some of the poorest countries in Africa such as the DRC, South Sudan, and Uganda. And this improved quality was due to the high quality work of HopeWorld!

While there is much to be thankful in the past year of work, we are also looking towards our 20-30-40 Vision to scale our impact! Improving educational support is crucial for the success of our programmatic work and we’ve made strides due to our forward looking strategic outputs. We are unmatched in our educational programs.

In this celebratory time of the New Year, I look back upon 2019 and the great successes we’ve had and look forward to 2020 and what’s in front of us. There is much be thankful for and much to be excited to look towards.

Serving together,

John Smith
President, HopeWorld

As I read this President’s Letter, it describes several successes and things to celebrate with the donor. Unfortunately, the letter focuses entirely on HopeWorld’s accomplishments and fails to tell the story of the successes from the point of view of the donor. It also has a few other challenges such as spelling out what DRC means and explaining what the 20-30-40 Vision is.

Here’s a rewrite that focuses more on the donor:

Subject: YOU are transforming education and saving lives!

Dear Jeremy,

If you’re anything like me, the new year is a wonderful time to reflect on the successes of the past year and look forward to what’s to come. You have contributed so much to our success this past year and I want to share encouraging news from the work you’ve made possible in 2019! The most exciting news is the number of lives you’ve changed through better education. In fact, our programs team on the ground in Africa just shared with me that we’ve seen a 94.4% improvement in children’s education! 

Throughout 2019, you have helped 35 partner schools double the quality of their education. Thank you for your hands-on support! You’ve helped more than 30,000 children receive life-changing support in some of the poorest countries in Africa such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda. You were right there with HopeWorld seeing this tremendous improvement for so many children’s lives!

While there is much to be thankful in the past year, with your help we can meet a vision to more than double our impact in 2020! Our 20-30-40 Vision plan will see 20 new communities impacted with 30 new schools while adding 40 new teaches to our existing schools. With your help, we will see so many more lives changed in 2020.

In this celebratory time of the New Year, I look back upon 2019 with gratitude for you and the difference you’ve made in children’s lives. Let’s look forward to an exciting 2020! 

Serving together,

John Smith
President, HopeWorld

Simple changes to the content of the letter refocuses the letter on the recipient, the donor.