How do you finish off a campaign? Donor thank-you letters are one of the most important steps in completing any campaign your organization hosts. Your donors deserve to feel appreciated for their efforts in helping your nonprofit. Sending out acknowledgements can be the pivotal difference between a donor who gives a single gift and a supporter that feels connected to your organization and consistently contributes donations to your campaigns.
Check out these tips for showing your donors some love!
- Types of Acknowledgements
- Benefits of Donor Thank-You Letters
- Best Practices for Acknowledging Donors
- Content for Donor Thank-You Letters
Types of Acknowledgements
One of the main ways your organization can show your appreciation to supporters is with a physical letter. Letters sent through direct mail are a classic way to get in touch with and acknowledge your donors. Most organizations type up and print out their donor thank-you letters, but some situations are better suited for the familiarity of handwritten letters. Although it can be considered more thoughtful to mail a physical letter, this acknowledgement strategy takes a little more time, effort, and money on behalf of an organization. If you’re a larger nonprofit with a long list of donors, consider reserving physical handwritten thank-you notes for your top donors. Additionally, some donors might prefer the convenience of email over receiving a physical letter.
Email is a quick, easy, and convenient way for your organization to give thanks to your donors. Two advantages of email acknowledgement letters are that they are inexpensive for nonprofits to send, and they’ll get to your donors faster. However, crafting an email takes less effort on your organization’s part, and therefore they may be considered a less personal means of communication. With email acknowledgements, some donors might find it more difficult to feel a connection to your organization, so make sure to add elements like personalization tokens to your emails to make your donors feel special.
Another quick way to thank your donors is to call them or send a text. Phones are an increasingly important part of everyday life, and most Americans have their cell phones with them most of the day. Automating a thank-you text for donors is a fast and easy way to get your appreciation to your supporters in a direct manner. Or if you want to give a more personal thanks, supplement acknowledgements with a personal phone call.
Donors who have given large contributions or who have supported your organization for years deserve a bit more than a standard thank-you letter. When you receive a donation from one of those special donors, find other ways to thank them in addition to a letter or email. This strategy guarantees that your donors feel appreciated and encourages them to give again in the future. It also helps your organization establish a more personal connection with your donors!
Social media is a great way to publicly share donor thank-you letters. After a campaign is finished, create a post to acknowledge your donors’ support and display the impact they had on your cause. A thank-you post shows your appreciation for your supporters and demonstrates to a larger audience what your organization can achieve with donations. If your supporters donate through a social platform like Facebook, you may be able to automate posts for donations that come through.
For large donations, consider creating thank-you videos to post on your social media platforms. These videos can be from staff members, or you could use behind-the-scenes footage of the work your organization does. These videos can help supporters feel a personal connection to your organization.
Benefits of Donor Thank-You Letters
Improved Donor Relationships
Every time they make a donation, your donors are putting their faith and trust in your organization. It’s important to cultivate these donor relationships to keep them thriving. Saying thanks is one of the easiest ways to reach out to your supporters and make them feel appreciated. When you acknowledge their contributions, donors feel closer to your organization, and you’ll establish deeper relationships with them. These donor thank-you letters also help to open communication up with your supporters so you can send updates and information on future campaigns.
Higher Retention Rate
Increasing your retention rate can drastically increase your organization’s funding by preventing money from being lost to donor attrition. Always thanking donors for their contributions is one of the best retention strategies out there. In fact, studies have suggested that sending out personalized thank yous can increase donor retention rates by up to 39%! When supporters feel like their personal contributions are making a difference and are being recognized, they’ll feel appreciated and be more likely to give again.
Fixes Donation Receipt Overlap
People don’t like receiving unnecessary mail. It usually ends up unread and discarded. So instead of your nonprofit sending two pieces of paper, why not send one letter to do the job of both? Your donor thank-you letters can also double as a tax receipt. Include pertinent tax information at the bottom of your thank you. Supporters use tax receipts to claim deductions on their tax returns, so as long as the required information is included somewhere in an email or letter, they can use it as proof of the donation. Save money and time by combining the two and make life a little easier for you and your donors.
Better Public Image
Your nonprofit is working hard to accomplish great things in your community. Keep the respect of your donors and prospects by remembering to thank them. Donor thank-you letters show your supporters that you care about them just as much as they care about you and the work you do. Acknowledgements can give your nonprofit a serious PR boost. When you send a heartfelt thank you, your supporters will be more likely to talk about how appreciated your organization made them feel and spread the word about the work you do. You can also use social media posts to publicly show your love for your donors and show off how great your donors are to the world!
Best Practices for Acknowledging Donors
Segment Your Donor Thank-You List
One best practice for donor thank-you letters is to split your list of supporters out into first-time donors, recurring donors, major gift donors, and any other significant groups. Write a thank-you letter template for each group based on their unique contributions to your organization. Although you want your letters to be situationally specific, don’t make them so specific that you can’t personalize them by simply filling in your supporters’ personal information.
Your donor base isn’t a faceless collective. Each person has a different relationship with your organization that warrants a personal approach. Segmenting your list helps you individualize your acknowledgements before you start writing. You’ll still have to personalize each template before sending them, but writing multiple drafts for various situations ensures your thank yous will always be relevant and specific.
Make Use of Email Acknowledgement Software
Another best practice for donor thank-you letters is to take advantage of email software. With certain online donation platforms, your nonprofit can automate your acknowledgement emails to supporters. Obviously, you won’t be able to send out the exact same email to all of your donors. Combining automation software with your donor segmentation will help ensure your emails come across as more personal and genuine. Email acknowledgement software can help streamline your thank you process and reduce the amount of time it takes to send out a large number of donor emails. And even though automation can save your organization time and money, it shouldn’t take the place of personalized correspondence for large donations and long-standing supporters.
One plus to using email software is that you can send donor thank-you letters as soon as a gift is made. Ideally, your acknowledgements should be sent out within two days of the initial donation. However, if you have many donations that require recognition, the deadline for sending out your letters can be extended to a week. Waiting too long to send your appreciation may make it seem like your supporters are an afterthought to your nonprofit though. So make sure to send your letters as soon as possible so your donors feel the full impact of your appreciation!
To get your acknowledgements out quickly, try creating templates during the planning phase of your campaign. Look for examples online and customize them for your organization and for each campaign you host. Another great tool to help create templates is ChatGPT. Using online writing tools can jumpstart the writing process.
Choose the Right Communication Channels for Your Donor Thank-You Letters
Different supporters will interact with your nonprofit in different ways. That’s why choosing the right type of communication for your acknowledgements matters. Make sure to consider:
- Your organization’s size: While big nonprofits might not have time to handwrite all letters, it might be worthwhile for a smaller nonprofit with a growing base.
- Your donors’ preferred communication channels: A younger, tech-savvy base might prefer email or social media, while other donors might prefer a handwritten letter or phone call.
- Gift size: While you should thoughtfully acknowledge contributions of all sizes, major gift donors deserve a more personalized approach.
- Your available resources: If you have a tight budget, it’s more cost-effective for you to use email.
Your organization has many options when it comes to deciding how to thank supporters. You can send letters by mail or email, or make a phone call or post on social media. With so many choices out there, you should make sure you cater your approach to the needs of your organization and the preferences of your donors. That way, your thank yous will be manageable on your organization’s end and well-received by your supporters Remember to make your acknowledgements exciting by shaking things up a little and sending a different type of thank-you message every once in a while.
Brand Your Acknowledgements
Branding is a best practice you can apply to everything your nonprofit does. You can brand your donor thank-you letters to the specific campaign or more generally to match your organization. All that matters is that your thank-you letter is cohesive with the rest of your branding. Make sure the letterhead and photos you use match the rest of your campaign or your organization’s overall look so that your supporters will have no doubt whose letter they’re reading. You should have a cohesive style for all your fundraising efforts, and branding your thank yous establishes them as important to your nonprofit.
When possible, use pictures and videos in your acknowledgements. The types of photos or videos you include within your acknowledgements can vary and include:
– Videos of the work that your nonprofit is doing
– Photos of your staff holding a thank-you banner or sign
– Pictures of the people, animals, or communities that you serve
You can include these images in physical letters, emails, or social media. Photographs and videos are the perfect medium for getting more personal with your supporters and establishing meaningful relationships with them. If they can’t directly witness the good your organization is doing, pictures are the next best thing! Pair images with stories to show your donors the tangible effects of their contributions. Just make sure that you have the consent of the people in your photographs.
Content for Donor Thank-You Letters
Personalize the Salutation of Your Donor Thank-You Letters
Your donor thank-you letter should never start with an impersonal greeting like “Dear Donor,” or “Dear Friend.” Instead, use your supporter’s preferred name. If a donor’s name is William but he goes by Bill, address him as Bill. Impersonal greetings can make your organization seem disconnected or lazy, which can make your supporters feel unappreciated. Your introduction and greeting are the first pieces of information your donors will see. Start off strong to make sure they read the whole message.
Besides the donor’s name, personalize your thank yous with the type of donation they’ve made. While you may have already segmented your donor acknowledgement templates by donor history or major gifts, it can also help to personalize your thank yous by gift types. Create different templates for online donations, pledge donations, fundraising event gifts, sponsorships, and tribute gifts. These touches show that your organization cares about where you are connecting with your donors.
Always acknowledge recurring donations within your donation thank-you letters. Not every donor thank-you letter will be sent out to a first-time donor, and your loyal supporters deserve to receive thoughtfully crafted acknowledgements. When you go to write a thank-you letter or email for someone who has given more than once, make sure that you acknowledge their previous support as well. When your acknowledgements reference previous donations in addition to their most recent one, it demonstrates that your organization recognizes their contributions and cares about the long-term relationship you have with them.
Besides referring to previous donations, other kinds of history you have with a supporter is another personal touch you can add into your acknowledgements. If they’ve volunteered for your organization, thank them for how helpful their assistance was. Or, if they’ve been to a fundraising event before, mention the event they’ve participated in and how you were honored by their attendance. This is also a great opportunity to mention any volunteer or event opportunities that are coming up for your nonprofit.
Keep Your Donation Thank-You Letter Short
Your donor acknowledgement shouldn’t be multiple pages long. In fact, the shorter it is, the better! Keep your donor thank-you letters to one sheet of paper if you can. Donors don’t need to be overwhelmed with an envelope stuffed with information. A long email or letter is far less likely to be read than a one-pager. If you want your supporters to read your acknowledgement, keep it as short as you can without sacrificing content.
To keep your supporters’ attention, make your introduction attention grabbing. Start with an introductory remark that draws your reader in and includes the specifics of your campaign. Be creative throughout the letter, and let your supporters know exactly what you’re doing with their gift. Even though there is some information that must be included in your donor thank-you letters, you have creative license throughout the acknowledgement. Donors don’t want to read a dry, cookie-cutter thank-you note, so don’t start with boring cliches like “On behalf of,” or “Thank you for your generous contributions.” The more creative you can make your message, the more likely you are to capture your supporters’ attention and the more memorable you’ll be!
Even though you want your messages to be short, you need to use original copy in the body of your donor acknowledgements. No one likes a copycat. Make sure that your donor thank-you letters don’t contain word-for-word phrases or sentences from any other materials you may have already sent out to supporters. Using original copy ensures that your acknowledgements sound more personal and genuine as opposed to repetitive and insincere. Being original shows your donors that you care about them and their contributions enough to put the time into thanking them.
Don’t immediately ask for another donation. While you want to encourage your supporters to further communicate with your nonprofit and donate multiple times, you don’t want them to feel as if money is all your organization cares about. Your letter should be donor-centric and appreciative. Focus on the donor’s generosity and hold off on making any further asks. You wouldn’t give your friend a thank-you card letting them know how much you appreciate the birthday gift they got you and also include a list of presents you want for next year. Don’t do the same thing to your supporters! Remember, your donors want to feel appreciated.
Take the time to say thank you more than once. Your messages should begin and end with a genuine “Thank you!” Open with a sincere acknowledgement of the donation and what you plan on using it for. Before you close out your letter, say thank you one more time to emphasize your appreciation. Donor thank-you letters should be centered around how your supporters help you. The acknowledgement shouldn’t be solely about your organization. Saying thank you multiple times demonstrates that you’re truly appreciative of the donation that has been made. It shifts the conversation from one that’s all about you to one that’s about them.
Send a Letter From Someone Who Has Been Helped By Your Organization
If possible, ask someone who has been helped by your organization to create a personal thank-you letter. For instance, if you work with children, you can ask the kids and their families to create simple thank-you cards or drawings. You can even use this strategy if you run an animal-based nonprofit. Simply dip a puppy or kitten paw in some paint and print it on the letters you write. Using personalized thank-you letters and cards from those who benefit from your nonprofit’s services is a great way to directly connect your supporters to the individuals their donations are helping. It also includes the people and animals that you serve in the acknowledgement process.
If you can’t send your thanks from someone your organization has helped, incorporate stories into your acknowledgements. A donor thank-you letter is the perfect medium for telling a story that will remind them of why they gave in the first place. You can even vary the types of stories you tell. Try using:
- Success stories
- Updates on current projects
- Ideas about future initiatives
- Organizational updates
- A story from someone who’s been helped by your organization
These types of stories are great ways to connect with your supporters and show them how their contributions are being put to use. Stories also shift the focus of the acknowledgement off your organization and on to your donors and the people, animals, and communities that you serve.
Besides stories, provide donors with a timeline for their donations. When supporters contribute to your organization, they will likely want to be updated on the progress of the projects that they’re funding. Even if you are unable to give specific updates immediately after each donation has been made, give your supporters a general timeline for the project you’re working toward. Donors want to know how and when your organization will use the money they’ve given. After your initial letter, keep following up with more information in future correspondences.
Outside of updates on the projects your organization is accomplishing with donations, give donors an update on the campaign’s progress towards reaching your fundraising goal. By reminding your supporters how close you are to your end goal, you can create a sense of urgency that can inspire donors to give more without your organization asking for another donation. Include your fundraising thermometer in the acknowledgements you send to your supporters to display how close you are to fulfilling the original campaign goal.
Within your donor thank-you letters, tell your supporters about other ways they can engage with your organization. There are many calls to action you can include in your acknowledgements. The only guideline here is that you should offer donors something of value and don’t ask for more donations. They just made a contribution to your campaign, so it’s time to give them something in return! You can encourage donors to:
- Attend free events
- Explore corporate giving programs
Informing donors of how to stay in contact with your nonprofit helps you retain your supporters. Offering other engagement opportunities encourages your donors to interact with your organization beyond the dollars they contribute and allows them to be more closely connected to the work you do.
Tell Donors Exactly Where Their Contributions Are Going
Tell your supporters exactly how their donations are helping your cause. Break it into tiers to make it simpler for your nonprofit to organize. If a donor gives $50, tell them what that accomplishes and give examples of what other donation amounts can do. If you have an ongoing fundraiser or campaign, make sure that your supporters know about the general and specific aspects of that project. Vague promises aren’t going to cut it in your donor thank-you letters, nor will roundabout statements that only hint at where your donors’ money is going. Make it clear how the funds help your cause. Donors are more willing to give if they can see tangible results from their donations.
When communicating with supporters, address donors in the second person pronoun (“you”), and make sure you use “you” more than “we” and “I.” Your donor thank-you letters should show your supporters that your organization appreciates them individually, not as part of a nameless, faceless group. Tell supporters about how they’re helping your nonprofit achieve its goals rather than discussing your organization’s overall accomplishments. Acknowledge your donors and highlight their contributions. Your organization couldn’t complete its mission without the generosity of all your supporters. A donor-centric acknowledgement helps encourage donors to give again in the future.
Be sure to use a conversational tone throughout your acknowledgements as well. Don’t come across as overly formal or distant. Cultivate connection and make donors feel like they are part of your nonprofit’s family by using a warm and personal tone in your donor thank-you letters. You want to appear personable and excited about joining forces, not cold and distant. Donors who feel a connection to your nonprofit will be more likely to donate again in the future.
You also want to avoid any complex jargon in your thank-you letters. Many of your supporters will not know the more detailed aspects of what your organization does unless they work in a related field. Part of keeping a conversational tone in your acknowledgements means guaranteeing that your donors understand what you’re thanking them for. They should be able to understand your thanks without looking up the meaning of specific terms. Use broader phrases for more specialized aspects of your organization’s work.
You can also take this time to ask your donors for feedback on the campaign. Whether your campaign was online or was part of an event, ask donors if they have any suggestions for your organization that would encourage them to participate in future campaigns. This gives your supporters an opportunity to be part of the planning process for your campaigns and to feel heard by your nonprofit. Donors may suggest a type of event they would be excited to participate in or provide you with fresh ideas for how you can enhance your donation forms. Asking for feedback is one of the greatest ways to learn what your supporters want directly from their mouths.
Sign the Acknowledgement
Once you’ve finished writing your acknowledgements, you need to sign your letters. Your donor thank-you letter should be signed by someone high up in your organization. If you can’t get a signature from a board member, ask one of your relevant department heads to sign the letter. A signature establishes authority and legitimacy for your acknowledgement. It also makes donors feel appreciated on a more personal level.
Under the signature, include contact information at the bottom of the letter or email. Provide the name, phone number, and email for who supporters might need to get in touch with at your organization. Donors may have various questions, so make sure you provide contact information for someone who will know how to direct different queries to the relevant staff members in your organization. By providing contact information, your nonprofit appears more reachable in the eyes of your supporters. Instead of being a faceless organization, you’ll be able to show donors that you want to hear from them.
In addition to contact information, include a way for supporters to sign up to receive updates from your organization or to subscribe to a newsletter if your nonprofit has one. Newsletters are a great tool to keep donors connected to your organization and let them know of future campaigns and events. You can also add links to your nonprofit’s social media accounts. Social media can show supporters updates on the projects that their donations helped come to life.
Once your donor thank-you letters are complete, check your writing for mistakes. Before you send out your letter, make sure to read and reread it with a detail-oriented eye. Run your letter through your word processor’s spell check, and double check any donor information to make sure everything is correct. It’s easy to gloss over mistakes when you’ve been reading over the same material. Have another person look over your letter before sending. If your acknowledgements include careless mistakes, your supporters will notice. Sending out a letter with many typos could make your nonprofit look unprofessional and undermine your organization’s authority. Even worse, if you accidentally misspell a donor’s name or mistype other important information, you run the risk of accidentally offending a recipient.
Donor thank-you letters are a crucial campaign step for every organization to remember. People want to feel appreciated for the time and money they spend helping others. Acknowledging your donors is key to higher retention rates and increases the possibility of a larger gift in the future. Recognize your supporters as the hero of your cause to help your organization’s fundraising efforts grow.