Learn the anatomy of a proper nonprofit donation thank you letter complete with a sample letter you can replicate with your own nonprofit.
Donor or supporter thank you letters are more than just a courtesy for nonprofits and charities. Personal outreach is a pivotal part of your donor acquisition and retention routine and should complement any nonprofit marketing strategy.
The cycle goes: acquire a new donor, share your mission, and secure their donation. But the loop can’t be completed without a thank you.
This final step demonstrates value to your donors and just plain makes them feel good. Happy donors who feel like they’re making a difference will continue to pledge their support. While the letters may be short, you can still create a big impact with a little help from these insider tips and tricks.
Best Practices for Nonprofit Donor Thank You Letters
The beauty of a donor thank you letter is that it will look different from every organization. The anatomy of these letters, however, share some fundamental elements. Mainly:
- A sandwiched thank you approach
- Thank you’s should be the bread— at the start and at the end!
- An impact statement
- Because of your X contribution, we were able to achieve Y and Z.
- Regards from a top-ranking member of the staff
- Thank you letters carry more weight when they’re “sent” from a senior staff member such as a Chief Development Officer or even a CEO.
- Personalization whenever possible
- Many donor management systems possess the capability to add personalized merge tags to letters. A small detail, but the inclusion of a name can make a huge difference.
- Send them as soon as possible
- Whether your donation thank you letter is digital or not, your letter should be sent as soon as a donation is received!
- Recognize donor status
- Another element of personalization to add to your thank you letter is to recognize the kind of donor you’re writing to. Is it their first time, have they donated for years? Recognize and praise them for the relationship they have with your organization.
- Keep your text simple
- It’s best practice to aim for a reading level of sixth grade or below for all of your donor communications.
Tips for Writing Thank You Letters to Donors or Supporters
A good donation thank you can fit on one page, doesn’t have paragraphs running over four sentences long, and includes plenty of white space. It’s expected to operate off of a template if you have a high volume of donors, but that doesn’t mean it has to sound boilerplate.
We can break down a template for you in five steps, and we’ll round it all off with a sample thank you letter you can replicate yourself!
Step 1: Open With Thanks
Open your letter with a combination thank you and value statement. Here is where you make the donor feel like part of the team, a valuable tool for curating loyalty
Step 2: Reiterate Your Mission
A great way to reminder donors of their value is to reminder them of your organization’s mission. This creates the equation that the donor’s gift + the impact it had = greater global or community change.
Step 3: Express Continued Need
While the purpose of this letter is to thank donors for what they’ve done, it’s important to remind them of what’s still left to do. Include a subtle sense of urgency and remind donors of continual need and continual support.
Think of the classic PBS line: “X program is made possible thanks in part to viewers like you.” The assumption here is, without your support, PBS would cease to exist, and you don’t want that.
Step 4: Recognize Donor Status
Here is the perfect space to bring up what you know about your donor’s history. If they’ve donated for years, remind them of that (you’ve been a donor for X years, you’ve helped us raise X dollars to date….). Or, if they’re a new donor, tell them of what their future contributions could look like.
Step 5: Final Thank You
Always end your note with one final thank you as a way to end it on a positive note. Especially if your nonprofit handles some heavy topics.
Put all these steps together, with a little extra filler, and your thank you letter will wind up looking a little something like this:
Thank you for choosing us at [Hope Haven] to share your support. Because of your gift, we were able to provide housing for 3 families this winter.
Thanks to people like you we are able to provide safety to children and families whose lives have been turned upside-down due to natural disasters. We are their safe harbor among the storm.
Each year the number of families we support grows by nearly 10%. Hope Haven is fueled largely by donations from people like you.
We genuinely appreciate your loyal support over the last four years. We hope you continue to choose us on this journey to create fresh starts for thousands of families around the country.
Without you, none of the work at Hope Haven would be possible. And for that we owe you the world’s largest thank you.
Our sincerest thank you,
Hope Haven Chief Development Officer
So in the spirit of following our own advice, we want to thank you for reading our tips and tricks. We cherish each of our nonprofit partners deeply, and we’d love to help you create an impact with SMS. Perhaps you could even give an automatic donation thank you text a try!
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