How to Write a Thank-You Letter for Donations – A Fundraiser’s Guide
Think for a moment about the last thank-you note you received. Was it three sentences or less? “Thank you for the thing. I really appreciate it. Signed, Someone.” At least it’s something. But it’s next to nothing.
Your donors deserve so much more. After all, where would you be without them?!
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write the perfect thank-you letter, along with some templates to get you started.
Thank You Letter for Donation Must-Haves
1. Personalize “To” AND “From”
Want your missive to look like a form letter at first glance? Then don’t use your donor’s name when addressing it. OF COURSE you don’t want that! Always, ALWAYS address your thank-you note to an individual. Similarly, don’t sign it from your organization as a whole. Sign it from an individual, or a few individuals. But always use names, at the beginning AND the end.
It’s really bad form to solicit donors before you’ve thanked them. So thank them promptly! Here’s a way to jumpstart the process: When you’re composing your ask, jot down a note or two – just for yourself – about what the gift would mean to you and your org. You’re not putting the cart before the horse, and you’re not going to jinx your chances of actually receiving a donation. Envisioning how you’ll thank the donor, if and when they come through, will put you in a grateful mindset – arguably, the healthiest mindset you can ever have. Not just in business, but in life.
Make your thank-you letter not only more powerful and impactful, but more interesting and fun to read. How? By showing your donors the impact they’re having by supporting you. Tell them precisely, with detail, what you’ll do with their money. How will you use their specific donation? What will you create with it? Who, specifically, might benefit from it? NOW it’s storytime, folks!
Stories + Quotes
If you’re going to ask someone for their money, enlighten them with how you might use it to DO MORE GOOD! Might your donor’s generosity fund an anti-bullying program for a school? Will it provide a supply of pet food for an animal shelter? Medications for a senior on a fixed income? Housing for a displaced family? After-school programs? A chess club? This is the time to pull at heartstrings with gut-wrenching, and ultimately uplifting stories. Grab folks right in the feels.
We KNOW you have stories; you’re in the nonprofit sector! Ask your service recipients for their own direct quotes. These instantly become incredibly powerful testimonials, particularly when they come from kids. Ask the people you serve for quotes expressing their gratitude, and keep that list handy when it’s time to write your thank-you letters for donations. Put that list next to the list of notes you’ve jotted down to remind yourself of your own gratitude for your heroic donors.
Those heroic donors are your lifeblood. Don’t let them forget it! Keep the spotlight on them with donor-centric language.
“You’re making a difference.”
“Because of you, we can…”
“Your support enables us to…”
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without you.”
See the pattern? Make your appreciation even more abundant by pulling up your donor database for additional personalized info about each individual donor.
Did the person to whom you’re addressing your thank-you letter give last year, and the year before and the year before? Mention how profoundly grateful you are for their ongoing support, year after year. Did they help fund your big infrastructure improvement, back in 2015? Let them know people are STILL benefiting from that new building addition, every single day. They will not soon forget that you remembered! And don’t just extend the personal touch to your donors. Include your own, as well.
Add Handwritten Personal Touches
Of course, you already know it’s not all about you! But you can up the appreciation ante by adding your own little personal touches. Maybe a handwritten note in the margin, if it’s a snail mail letter, reminding your donor of an inside joke the two of you once shared? These little personal touches are especially effective if your letter is signed by someone other than yourself. So divide and conquer! Get your board members involved in your thank-you letter writing campaigns. More writers will help keep your thank-you notes from sounding stale.
Pro tip: Follow up your handwritten thank-you note with a phone call. This WILL pay off for you the next time you solicit donations! The personal touches are guaranteed to make your donors smile and feel all warm and fuzzy. Think warm and fuzzy with ALL of the words you use, when you’re writing a donation thank-you letter.
Warm, Friendly + Conversational
Pretty please, ditch the business jargon. We don’t want to hear the phrase, “On behalf of all of us here at Nonprofit…” It’s the kind of thing that’s likely to make your donor’s eyes glaze over, and stop reading. Have you ever actually said that to someone in conversation? You might’ve said it in a speech, but we’re not writing a speech here. We’re writing a thank-you letter for donation. So write like you would if your donor were standing right in front of you. You probably wouldn’t use the words “synergy”, “bandwidth” or “donor-pipeline” in conversation, so don’t put them in your thank-you letters.
Offer More Info
Ask donors if they want to learn more about what you’re doing and what you plan to do with support from generous folks like themselves. And this is probably a no-brainer, but don’t ask for money again in your thank-you letter.
Imagery is Worth 1,000 Words
You know what we’re talking about! What’s more eye-catching, words or pictures? You’ve chosen your words carefully, so illustrate them, if possible, with imagery or even video of the people, animals and/or places that have benefitted from your services. Your thank-you letter becomes a keepsake, rather than something to be read then recycled or deleted.
If you’re like the average nonprofit, brace yourself for some not-great news: You’re not doing a very good job thanking your donors. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, a group dedicated to helping nonprofits raise as much money as they can as quickly as they can, the average nonprofit only retains about 23% of first-time donors. The stats are even worse when it comes to retaining donors who have given before. The average nonprofit retains only 46% of repeat donors. That’s right – less than half of all donors decided to give again the following year. Why is this important, besides the obvious? Think long-term. If you keep just 10% more of those donors, it means a 200% increase in the lifetime dollar value of those donors. That’s according to research by the chief scientist at Bloomerang, a donor database used by nonprofits across the country and beyond.
Need another rather mind-blowing stat that drives home the importance of keeping your donors? According to digital fundraising platform CauseVox, in 2017, every $100 gained, was counterbalanced by $96 in losses, through attrition. YIKES! Scary, right?! Losing donors costs you money. Retaining donors is essential, not just for your nonprofit’s bottom line, but because it makes your job as a fundraiser a heck of a lot easier.
Now for the good news. It’s entirely in your power to retain more donors. And it all comes down to thanking them properly. Donors who received a thank-you were 51% more likely to give again. Phone calls are ESPECIALLY effective: Donors who got a phone call within 24 hours of their donation ended up giving 39% more, the next time they were asked for money. Live phone calls always trump voicemails.
But excuse the digression. Let’s get back to letter-writing, shall we?
Thank You Letter Template
Here we offer up a couple of examples of solid, meaningful thank-you letters for donations.
Dear [Donor Name],
We want to express our deep appreciation for your generous gift of [amount]. You’re making a real difference in the lives/health of [people, place or animals you serve].
When we set out to [do whatever it is you’ll do with the money], we weren’t sure we’d be able to accomplish so much so quickly. But because of your support, we [did what you did].
Thanks to you, more [people, places, animals] will be able to [have what they’re lacking]. Like [name of service recipient]. [Name of service recipient] is now able to [do whatever it is they can do with donor dollars].
Now that you’ve helped us accomplish that, we’ll be able to focus our energies on [new project]. Would you like to hear more about it? We’d love to tell you more!
Thank you, again, from the bottom of our hearts for being a champion for [mission language].
[Name of org staffer or volunteer]
Here is another sample thank-you donation letter, with a more casual tone, like for an email instead of a snail mail letter:
Hi [Donor Name],
Thank you so very much for your amazing contribution of [amount of donation].
Wow – what a year, right? So many people/animals/places suffered unimaginable losses. Because of you, the rebuilding process begins! People/animals/places will be able to [improve their lives/health/stations].
We’re thrilled to be able to [do what you’ll do next] with your support. We’re planning to [serve more/break ground on/launch a new project] and we’ll be able to do that sooner than we dreamed, thanks to folks like you. We’d love to keep you updated on [whatever you’re working on]. Do you want to hear more?
I feel uplifted and excited for the future, knowing that together we can accomplish great things.
[Name of staff member or volunteer]
One final example of a thank-you letter for donations:
I’m writing this thank-you note with a grateful heart, after receiving your generous gift of [amount of donation].
Thanks to donors like you, we were able to [do what you did with the money].
It’s generosity like yours that fuels our work [doing whatever it is you do]. The need out there is immense for [people, animals, places you serve]. I have hope that we’ll be able to do even more, with your ongoing support. Can we tell you more about our future plans, dreams and aspirations?
Please know that you are making a real, measurable difference in the lives of [service recipients]. I’ll never forget your benevolence and I want to thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart!
Name and title
Hopefully, you LOVE writing thank-you letters. Think of them as an investment: An investment in your org, your future, and the work you’re doing. It just might be an investment that pays off BIG. You never know what could happen if a donor with considerable means receives a letter that’s thoughtful, considerate and – most important of all – personalized. So take some time with yours and it just might translate into an even bigger gift next time.
Ready to write a thank-you letter that doesn’t feel like you just mailed it in – pun intended? Reach out! Request a consultation for more letter-writing tips OR if you have any other fundraising needs. We got you!