How to Write a Thank You Letter for Donations
Thank you letters are an excellent way to show your gratitude and appreciation after receiving a donation for your organization. Today’s technology has allowed us to create automated thank you letters with web-based membership management software like MembershipWorks. But sometimes an additional personal outreach can make a difference. However, deciding on what to write and how to craft your thank you letter can be a challenge. What should you say? How formal should your letter be? And whom should you address it to? In this guide, we answer all these questions (and more) to help you write a meaningful thank you letter to your members.
Why do Thank You Letters Matter?
With a well-written thank you letter, you can make donors or members feel like their contribution or membership matters – like they made a significant impact on your cause or group. And as the late great poet Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The science checks out, too – writing a thank you letter is statistically proven to boost donor retention. According to research by Cygnus, 65 percent of first-time donors do not offer a second gift, but 80 percent admit that receiving a “thank you” could inspire them to donate once more. Essentially, a good thank you letter affirms a donor’s decision.
8 Steps to Writing an Effective Thank You Letter
Writing such an important note can be tricky and overwhelming, but it’s easier to break it up into smaller phases. Learn how to write an effective thank you letter with these eight simple steps:
1. Make it Snappy
A prompt response inspires confidence. It tells your donors that you’re efficient, you’re on top of things and that you value your donors’ time.
Of course, you can’t be online 24/7, waiting to fire off a thank you note at every waking moment. To make sure your organization is always able to send a prompt response no matter what time a donation comes in, consider investing in a member management software. That way, you can automate your responses and focus on other important tasks! In this automated email you can include mention of any tax deductions that the donor may qualify for as the result of their donation.
2. Personalize Your Letter
Whether you opt to automate your responses or not, make sure that your thank you letter still feels like a human being sent it.
Personalize each note by addressing your recipient by name, e.g. “Dear John Smith.” Don’t start each letter with a cold and generic “To whom it may concern” or “On behalf of our organization”! Talk about your organization in the first person (i.e., using the pronouns “I” and “we”).
3. Make Letter Templates
Having a template ensures that your thank you letters are uniform; hit all the critical points you want to cover; and flow in a friendly, readable and easily understandable way.
Here’s a bare-bones checklist of things you should include in your letter:
- Open the letter by addressing your donor by their first name.
- Express thanks right off the bat. Make this your very first sentence if you can.
- Acknowledge their donation amount in the letter.
- Express gratitude again for the specific donation.
- Discuss how their donation will make a difference to your organization or your cause.
- Add a personalized note and sign off.
- Say thanks one last time.
If you can’t be bothered to draft a brand new letter, there are tons of example letters and pre-written downloadable letter templates online that you can simply customize and improve upon. Or see our sample letters below.
4. Mind Your Tone and Speak From the Heart
It’s important to match your tone with your message. After all, a thank you letter is meant to express gratitude to your recipient. If you want them to connect with your letter, don’t just give the cold hard facts and call it a day – make sure you speak from the heart.
It bears repeating that donating is an emotional decision, often done because the donor has some kind of personal stake or connection to the cause. Make sure your thank you letter uses donor-centered language, using “you” more than “I” or “we.” Essentially, you’ll want to talk about your donor more than you talk about yourself!
Some phrases to keep in mind are:
- With your help
- Your contribution
- Your support has made the following possible
However, don’t forget your brand identity in the process. Remember that you’re still representing your organization, and you have to write in a way that still aligns with your group’s identity.
5. Treat All Donations Equally
Just because someone makes a smaller-than-average donation doesn’t mean that they’re not worthy of receiving a thank you letter. Consider that someone may not presently have the funds to donate a considerable amount now, but may be willing to donate again when their finances are better.
If you acknowledge them and express gratitude for their donation, they may feel more motivated to return later on.
6. Bring Up Past Donations
If you’re talking to a recurring donor, don’t just send them a generic thank you time and time again. Make sure to acknowledge their previous contributions and celebrate their continued support. If you can, prepare a unique token or gift or plan a special VIP event for recurring donors.
7. Sign Off in an Intimate and Authentic Way
In a world filled with generic auto-responses, it pays to stand out. If your donor made a particularly big donation, is a recurring giver or has made a significant impact on your organization, consider signing your thank you letter with your name and a personal note at the bottom. It gives off the same effect as a heartfelt, handwritten letter.
On the other hand, you can also have a high-ranking person – the chair of the board, for example – sign the letter or add a handwritten note. This shows your recipient two things:
- From the lowest to the highest position, everyone is aware of the impact of their donations.
- The chairperson or president is hands-on and likes to get to know all donors personally.
8. Don’t Forget Your Name and Contact Information
Finally, don’t forget to include your name, position and contact number or email. Nobody wants to receive an anonymous thank you note!
Including your contact number also makes you seem more approachable. If the recipient has questions or concerns about their donations, they can easily reach you without having to scour the website for a number.
5 Ways to Improve Your Donor Thank You Letter
Connect With Your Donors on a Personal Level
Remember, donating to charity is usually an emotional or personal decision. As Campaign Now puts it, “Giving, be it time, talent, or treasure, is a deeply personal act.”
For the most part, people give because they believe in your mission, they want to see you succeed or perhaps they or their family have been personally impacted by your advocacy.
How can you connect with your donors on a deeply personal level? Get familiar with your donors, speak casually (but not too informally), and treat them like a dear friend.
Add Stories and Quotes
If you feel like your thank you letter is too short or simple, you can always add relevant stories about what you could do with previous donations. Mentioning numbers or stats is always helpful in conveying the impact. For example, if your organization works to provide clean water to underserved communities, tell the story of how, with last year’s donations, your group:
- Visited the community you serve
- Provided X gallons of water
- Gave X homes clean drinking water for X amount of months
Gather testimonials and photos from the beneficiaries of your advocacy too. Donors want to know where their money went and whether they could make a significant impact with their money. In fact, the more they know, the more inclined they are to make a second donation.
On top of telling a story from your nonprofit’s perspective, consider connecting your donor with someone whose life was personally changed by the donation.
Enrich Your Letter With Photos and Videos
As we said in our event description guide, humans are visual creatures. In fact, human beings process visual content 60,000 times faster than words. Photos, infographics and videos instantly grab attention and tell a story faster than a plain block of text.
With that being said, be deliberate about the kinds of images you include in your thank you letter. Employ the help of a graphic designer or a photographer to find the best image. You want pictures that don’t just bring out the emotions you want to evoke, but also match with your organization’s branding as well.
Don’t Ask for More Donations
The purpose of a thank you letter is to make donors feel seen, appreciated and valuable to your cause. It is not an opportunity to ask for more donations! By asking for more donations in your thank you letter, you run the risk of turning someone off with your out-of-place persistence. Focus on making your donors feel good about their gifts and leave the asking for another time.
Leave the Jargon at the Door
There are words, acronyms and phrases you and your colleagues throw around every day that may not connect with the average person. Keep them out of your thank you letters. Instead, maintain a casual tone and use phrases that you would more or less use among friends and family.
3 Letter Examples You Can Use as Inspiration
To help you get inspired, we’ve put together three letter samples for a variety of tones:
The Casual Thank You Note
In this thank you letter, we also include an additional handwritten thank-you note from a beneficiary.
Thank you so much for your very generous donation of $500 to The Super Kids Campaign! Your money will go directly into funding the new wing of the Grace Brown Children’s Hospital, where our young patients will have the space and equipment they need for physical therapy.
Thanks to you, we’re at 85% of our fundraising goal! We’re nearly there, and we couldn’t have done it without your help!
Below, you’ll find a special thank you letter written by Evan, one of the patients at Grace Brown and a superstar at the Super Kids Campaign. He also wanted to share this awesome drawing he made of you in a super suit!
President, Helping Hands Victoria
“Dear Mr. Joe, thank you so much for donating to our hospital. This makes me so happy because soon, I’ll have a bigger space to walk around with my therapists and get used to my new prosthetic leg! I can’t wait! Thank you!
Love, Evan, 8-years-old, osteosarcoma survivor and amputee.”
The Professional Letter
This donor appreciation letter has a more personal and professional tone to it.
Dear Miss Danielle Guevara,
Our heartfelt gratitude for your generous donation of $1,000 to the Clean Water Campaign.
The Clean Water Campaign is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing clean water to rural, underserved communities worldwide. Today, 535 families in the North Cape area are living without clean, potable water. With your generous donation, we can send enough drinking water to 10 families for one month!
Our organization relies on the generosity of donors like yourself – we are incredibly grateful for your support.
For more information on the North Cape community, our previous projects, and other ways you can help, please visit cleanwater4all.ca.
Thank you once again for your immense generosity.
Executive Director, Clean Water Campaign
The Personal Letter
This letter includes a heartfelt story from the helped person.
Dear Anita Fox,
I’m reaching out to you to express my profound gratitude for your donation of $300 to Traveling Teachers. As a teacher employed in the program, I want to let you know what a generous donation like yours can do.
I was born and raised in the remote town of Port Crow, where there is only one primary school serving our town as well as five adjacent towns. Because many of the elementary school children from nearby towns didn’t have the means to visit our school, our teachers would walk miles to deliver modules, set aside time to tutor kids and ensure that everyone received a quality education.
Today, I have returned to my hometown to improve the conditions of our traveling teachers, providing transportation, teaching supplies and other essentials – all using the money gifted by generous donors such as yourself. Without people like you, our teachers would not have the capabilities to reach as many students as they have today.
We recognize that this is your fifth donation to Traveling Teachers, and for that, we are incredibly thankful. As a token of our appreciation, we’re sending you a tote bag designed by one of our beneficiary students.
Thank you again, and we hope you have a wonderful day!
Teacher at Traveling Teachers
Thank you letters are an essential part of any fundraising campaign. Not only do they serve as a way to thank donors for their support, but they can also be used to increase future donations and maintain your relationship with the donor. You can thank us later for these tips.