Looking for a donor thank-you letter template? We can help!
Writing sincere thank-you letters is the first step to great donor retention. But getting started can be tough!
That’s we put together this donor thank-you letter template. We’ll show you a thank-you letter we wrote for our (fictional!) nonprofit. Then we’ll break down the structure and tell you why it works.
For this exercise, I’m pretending I’ve made a donation to a local community garden that donates its produce to local families.
A Great Donor Thank-You Letter
When Catherine left the Green House’s produce stand yesterday, her arms were full of bags containing fresh food she otherwise couldn’t afford. Thanks to donors like you, Catherine and her family will have fresh, healthy food this week… and for weeks to come. Your support is helping fill bellies and build health in our community!
In the upcoming weeks, your gift will pay for gardening supplies, plant food, and water that we use to grow food for families in Lakeland. You’re making this service possible!
If you want to see your support at work, come visit us! We’re at the Lakeland Curbside Market Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., or you can stop by our greenhouses. We’d love to give you a tour and show you how you’re helping. We’ll also be sure to send you an update about how we’ve used your gift and how it’s making life easier for local families.
Thank you for working with us. Families like Catherine’s have access to healthy food because of your generosity. You’ve given her the gift of food security — and that’s priceless!
Thank you again,
Anatomy of a Great Thank-You Letter
There are a few important best practices that are reflected in this thank-you letter. Here’s a quick breakdown!
1. This thank-you letter focuses on the donor
A great thank-you letter is a thank you letter — it’s not a platform or a soapbox or an appeal. You wouldn’t write a thank-you note to your great-aunt Millie and talk about how fantastic you are… so don’t write a thank-you letter to a donor and talk about yourself. You also wouldn’t ask great-aunt Millie for a second birthday gift; don’t make an appeal in your donor thank-you letter, either. Focus on thanking your donor, telling them they made a difference, and making them feel like a hero for helping. That’s it.
2. This thank-you letter uses a story
Donors are people who are motivated by helping other people. If you tell a donor how they made a difference in the world, they’ll probably think “Eh, that’s nice” and move on. Tell a donor that they made a difference to a person with a name and a face, and they’re hooked. When you can, share stories in your thank-yous. Your donors want to know they’re changing peoples’ lives. Give your donors what they want!
3. This thank-you letter uses a picture
If this was a real thank-you letter sent to a real donor, I’d have a real photo of Catherine at the farmer’s market instead of a picture I pulled from Flickr (NOTE: their creative commons options are a great place for nonprofits to find good images). Your photo should somehow relate to the content of your email. It makes the email more interesting visually and helps donors imagine the people they’re helping.
4. This thank-you letter gives donors a way to connect
Good fundraisers raise money. The best fundraisers build relationships with their donors.
A donation is an indicator that someone believes in your work and wants to help. Keep them involved! Since you’re not going to keep them involved by asking for another donation (Right? RIGHT??), you’ll want to give them other ways to connect.
You don’t have to offer facility tours or visits like I did in this letter. You can tell them about volunteer opportunities, ask them to like you on Facebook, or ask them to share stories with friends. The possibilities are endless! Just find a way for donors to connect with the work you’re doing in the community. They’ve shown you that they care about your mission; let them help you!
5. This thank-you letter leaves the door open for more communication
Donors want to know their support makes a difference. Tell your donors you’ll send them an update about how you used their gift… and then follow up!
A Donor Thank-You Letter Template
Here’s a quick template that will help you put together a fantastic donor thank-you letter.
In the greeting:
Always include a personal greeting. You decide how formal it is; you can say “Mrs. Jarvis” or just call the donor by their first name. But make it personal! Nothing makes a thank-you seem insincere like addressing it to “Valued Donor,” “Sir or Madam,” or anything else that’s stiff or awkward.
In the first paragraph:
Tell your donor a story. Show them who they helped. If you can include a picture, that’s fantastic; if you can’t, paint a picture with your words! Thank your donor and tell them how they’re helping the person or people in your story. Starting your letter with a story draws the donor in and helps them understand the real-life impact their gift makes.
In the second paragraph:
Share specific details about a donor’s gift will impact the work you’re doing. This is easiest if a donor gave to a specific campaign or restricted fund. If they gave to an annual campaign, you can be a little more broad in your description. But remember, donors are people who want to help other people. Telling them specifically how their money will help people will reassure them they made a wise decision when they gave.
In the third paragraph:
Give your donors an opportunity to connect with you. When they made the decision to donate, they indicated a desire to engage in your work. Keep that engagement alive! It’s important to remember that this is a thank-you letter — don’t ask them to engage by making another donation. Invite them to volunteer, visit, or interact on social media instead.
In the closing:
Thank them again! Reiterate the impact they made. Set the stage for a future relationship. And then make sure you follow up in the upcoming weeks.
Writing a donor thank-you letter doesn’t have to be hard. We hope this example, breakdown, and template help you write a donor thank-you letter that inspires and delights your donors.
If you want to keep learning about how this kind of communication impacts your donors, check out our recent article on how to make the most of your donation receipt.
Note: Farmer’s Market photo courtesy of Chris Schrier