The Purpose of a Thank You Letter is to Thank Your Donors

Thank youYou would think the purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donors, but way too many of them have barely an ounce of gratitude.

As you work on your year-end appeal, you need to spend just as much time planning how you’ll thank your donors. Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last-minute to-do item and it shows.

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. The more you can do the better.

Thanking your donors is something you need to take seriously. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you letter.

Here are a few ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

Start planning now

Don’t wait until the day after your appeal goes out. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.

Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I love it when a nonprofit sends a handwritten thank you note. This is a rare occurrence, so if you do this, your thank you note will stand out in your donor’s mailbox.

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank-you party. 

Think about how much your donors will appreciate this nice gesture. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Steve,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. This will help us serve more families at the Parkside Community Food Bank. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past five years.

Phone calls are another personal way to say thank you

Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors  Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Linda, this is Jean Perkins and I’m a board member at Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an amazing letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an amazing thank you letter. Many thank you letters aren’t amazing and are mediocre at best. You’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

Remember, thank you letters are about thanking your donor. Keep that in mind at all times.  

Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization…. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something incredible.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like – As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years…. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And, don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel-good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

Your thank you letter needs to make your donors feel good about giving to your organization. Let them know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out are to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You! If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal. You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end, after you impress your donors with your letter, or include it on a separate page. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

 5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

How to write a donation thank you letter

How To Write Memorable Donor Thank Yous

Free Download – Nonprofit Thank You Letter Template

With fundraising revenue and retention rates down, you can’t afford to not do a good job of thanking your donors. In my next post, I’ll share some ways to improve your online thank yous.

Photo by Marco Verch

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