As someone who works for a nonprofit, you already know the value of gratitude. Donors, volunteers, and staff members all go out of their way to forward your mission and spread awareness about your cause. Without them, your nonprofit wouldn’t be able to do all of the amazing work that it does, so you probably feel grateful for their generosity every day!
However, feeling that appreciation and actually expressing it are two different things. Expressing gratitude for your donors is especially important for any fundraising campaign. Donors who feel appreciated are more likely to continue supporting your nonprofit in the long term than those who feel that their actions go unnoticed.
So how can you make sure you’re expressing this gratitude honestly and effectively? Share thank-you notes!
Thank-you notes are a powerful way to show supporters you appreciate their contributions to your cause. Although a simple note might seem like a small token of appreciation, it can be very meaningful for your donors. Not only will you create a personal connection with a donor, but you’ll also demonstrate that their contribution really matters. It might even encourage them to enroll in your monthly giving program!
There are a lot of ways to write a thank-you note, but we’ve collected some tried and true methods to help your team cover its bases. When crafting your nonprofit’s thank-you notes, you should:
- Get the basics right.
- Make your donor thank-you letter personal.
- Tell the donor where their money is going.
- Encourage more engagement through your donor thank-you letter.
- Personally sign your donor thank-you letter.
These tips are sure to make your donors feel appreciated and build the foundation for a strong, ongoing relationship between them and your nonprofit. Along the way, we’ll provide a couple of examples showing how you can implement these strategies into your own thank-you notes. Let’s get started!
1. Get the basics right.
You’ve worked hard to make a great first impression when you met your donor for the first time. Whether their first impression came from a beautiful event invitation, a well-organized event, or a great interaction with one of your staff members, you planned everything so that each donor would remember your nonprofit fondly.
However, just because a donor had a great time at your event doesn’t mean that their positive first impression is cemented. Your thank-you letter can make or break the impression — and the easiest way to break it is by getting the basics wrong.
Here’s what we mean by “the basics”:
- Sending your thank-you note promptly: The first step to getting your thank-you letters right is to send your note as soon as possible! Don’t let it sit on your to-do list for months. Your donor will think you’ve either forgotten about them, or you don’t care about their gift.
- Getting their name and personal information correct: Once donors receive their thank-you letters, they need to know that you appreciate them personally. That means that you have to get their name right—no exceptions. You should also ensure that you have the correct salutation for them recorded in your donor database. For example, someone who has earned a Ph.D. deserves to be called Dr., and you want to recognize their hard work when you write to them! It’s important to keep these preferences updated so that you don’t call someone by the wrong salutation. Getting into this habit will both make your letters more personal and avoid putting you in an awkward situation by referring to someone incorrectly.
- Writing a short and sweet letter: Your letter should be no more than one page. Any longer, and it’s possible that your donor will miss some vital information on the second page because they assumed it was unimportant!
- Avoiding spelling or grammar mistakes: Finally, don’t forget to proofread, proofread, proofread. You want your organization to be viewed as professional, and typos and grammatical mistakes will reflect poorly on you. When typing into a design program, any writing mistakes might slip through the cracks. Put all written text through a word processor first.
These basics might seem obvious, but giving them some extra attention can make a huge difference. While you might be drafting several thank-you notes, your donors will only receive one, so they’re more likely to notice if you spell their name wrong or send a letter months after a donation is made. Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, let’s get started on the content.
2. Make your thank-you letter personal.
Writing a personal thank-you letter doesn’t stop at addressing your donor by name. In fact, the personalization should be present from the greeting all the way through to the signature.
In the body of your letter, be both specific and original. Even if your nonprofit is using a thank-you letter template, your letters don’t have to feel repetitive from campaign to campaign. Personalizing your letters will also let donors know that you care about their experiences with your organization.
Use the data you have about the donor to personalize the letter to their contribution, and ensure that your letter has information specific to the campaign that they just gave to—not a previous one.
Information about your donor that you should include and recognize in your letter includes:
- The size of their donation
- Their status as a previous donor
- Their volunteer history
- Their matching gift history
By recognizing these things, your donor will feel like your organization understands that the mission matters to them and that they’ve been a dedicated supporter for a while. Donating should make them feel good, not taken for granted!
Brand your thank-you letter to your organization, so the recipient of your letter is sure that your letter is coming directly from your nonprofit and isn’t coming from either a third-party letter writer or someone trying to scam them.
Let’s take a look at two short versions of the same letter to see which one you’d prefer to receive:
Thank you for your donation. We really appreciate your contribution to our nonprofit, as your generous donation will allow us to continue to forward our mission. I hope that you’ll consider continuing to support our organization in the future.
James Smith, Executive Director of Supplying Childrens’ Futures Foundation.
Thank you so much for your $150 donation to our organization. Your generous donation will help us provide school supplies to low-income students in the Atlanta area. These school supplies have helped our students raise their GPAs, increasing their chances of attending college.
Your continued support through your volunteer and peer-to-peer fundraising efforts have made a huge difference in the lives of our students. We are deeply grateful for your dedication to our organization and this cause.
Thank you very much for your generosity and support,
James Smith, Executive Director of Supplying Childrens’ Futures Foundation.
Clearly, the second version is far more engaging, friendly, and familiar. The references to the donor’s specific donation amount, volunteer work with the nonprofit, and participation in fundraising initiatives demonstrate that the donor is considered an important part of your nonprofit’s family.
Don’t forget to include photos and stories in your letter, so that the donor has a connection to the beneficiaries that they’re helping. We’ll expand on this in the upcoming section.
3. Tell the donor where their money is going.
Your thank-you letter is an important part of your nonprofit’s storytelling and outreach strategy. It builds relationships with your donors and helps them feel like an integral part of your organization (which they are!). Your donor has given their own money because they believe in your organization’s cause. Now is the time to show them how much you’ve achieved with their essential contributions!
In your thank-you letter, specifically describe what their donation accomplished. Here are a few examples:
- If someone gave $50 to your animal shelter, share how many puppies you fed for a week with that money.
- If a donor contributed to a capital campaign to help you build a new facility, share photos of the final product or use your thank you letter as an invitation to the unveiling party.
- Encourage a beneficiary of the donation to write a thank you letter to the donor.
- For recurring donors, share a copy of your nonprofit’s annual report to show all you’ve accomplished over the past year.
Your donors might also be interested in the long-term goals and how your nonprofit is using donations to achieve them. Consider including a timeline of your organization’s ongoing projects in your donor thank-you letter. This has the added benefit of keeping your donors invested in seeing your success continue down the road.
Your donors want to be involved in the success of your organization, and they’ll love to hear what you’re up to! Don’t be afraid to give them a lot of information. They’ll be glad to have it.
4. Encourage more engagement through your donor thank you letter.
Don’t worry! We’re not about to tell you to make another ask in your thank-you letter. In fact, we’re big fans of the opposite: do not make another ask in your thank-you letter.
Continuously asking for donations might make your donors feel as though you only see them as an open wallet, not as a valued contributor to your nonprofit’s mission.
Instead, you should offer other ways to stay engaged in the success of your organization. In many instances, donors would love to support your organization in other ways, such as by attending events, volunteering, or spreading awareness about your cause. Donately’s guide to keeping up with donor communications recommends leveraging specific calls-to-action, such as attending a volunteer event or signing up for your newsletter, to deepen engagement.
In order to keep donors involved, consider including the contact information for different people in your organization in your thank you letter. These people could be volunteer coordinators, matching gifts officers, or anything in between. Offering multiple ways to reach people within your nonprofit is a wonderful way to make your organization seem more approachable and personable, rather than cold and monolithic.
There are lots of other ways to engage your donors, but here are a few more of our favorite ideas to encourage more engagement in your donor thank you letter:
- Share a printed invitation to your next stewardship event in your thank-you letter.
- Include a flyer for your next fun-run or charity auction.
- Add a postscript that provides information about upcoming volunteer opportunities.
- Invite them to follow your social media accounts or use your fundraiser’s hashtag.
Another way for donors to increase their impact on your organization is to offer them information on matching gifts programs. Through a matching gifts program offered by their employer, they can double their impact without having to pay more!
Matching gifts are a great way to deepen a donor’s engagement with your organization, and may even increase the likelihood that they contribute more frequently in greater amounts. According to this 360MatchPro resource on matching gifts, 1 in 3 donors indicated that they would donate more if they knew a match was offered, so take advantage of this opportunity to earn more and further engage donors!
However you decide to keep your donors engaged — whether it’s by including the contact information of your volunteer coordinator, sharing upcoming events, or notifying donors of their matching gift eligibility — the priority is to keep your supporters engaged with your organization, even after they’ve contributed.
5. Personally sign your donor thank-you letter.
This is the last step of your thank-you letter process. It’s been a long journey from donation to here, so make sure you go the extra mile for the finale.
Your donors are important to you, and your thank-you letter is the best time to let that show. When you print out your thank-you letters to be sent off, take them around the office and ask people to sign them!
Of course, whoever is in charge of writing them should sign every letter. But having some other members of the team also sign your letters is a beautiful way to demonstrate the impact that a gift can have for an organization.
Depending on the size of your organization, it might not be feasible to get everyone to sign your thank-you letters, but putting in just a little effort on this front can go a long way.
Think of when you were little, and your whole kiddie-league soccer team would sign a thank-you card for your coach. Your coach was so touched, even though it was just your signatures, right? The same principle applies here. The idea that a whole group of people appreciates what you’ve done is a powerful one, and your donors deserve to feel that appreciation.
If someone has given a particularly generous gift (think your major gifts donors), consider handwriting their entire letter. A handwritten letter is a great way to show your appreciation for their gift through the effort of your own hand.
No matter how you write your thank-you letter, or how you choose to deliver it, your note is sure to show them how much they mean to you. Be sure to get the basics right, be specific, and acknowledge the impact of a donor’s contribution. Hopefully, your thank-you letter will make your donor feel appreciated and will encourage them to stay involved.
Andrew Berry is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.