Donors are the life force of your nonprofit, providing you with the funds you need to create lasting change in your community. To retain their vital support and build long-term relationships with them, you need to communicate the value of their contributions regularly. One popular way to accomplish this is by sending donor thank-you emails.
According to Double the Donation, 55% of U.S. donors prefer to be thanked for their charitable gifts via email. In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to craft thank-you emails that will win your donors’ hearts:
- The Importance of Sending Donor Thank-You Emails
- Key Elements of a Donation Thank-You Email
- Donor Thank-You Email Best Practices
- 4 Donor Thank-You Email Templates
- How to Use eCards to Elevate Your Donor Thank-You Emails
A thank-you email is a cost-effective way to send personalized, thoughtful appreciation messages to your donors. By taking the time to convey sincere gratitude, your nonprofit will be able to retain and expand support for your mission over time.
The Importance of Sending Donor Thank-You Emails
Saying “thank you” is an essential part of any healthy, meaningful relationship. Whether you’re thanking a friend for doing you a favor or expressing appreciation for a gift you received, it’s important to acknowledge people for the impact they’ve made on your life.
The same goes for your nonprofit and its community of donors, volunteers, staff, and board members. By consistently sending thank-you emails to your donors, you can:
- Strengthen donor relationships. When donors feel individually valued by your nonprofit, they’ll be much more invested in your goals and long-term success. They may also decide to deepen their involvement, such as by making larger gifts, joining your recurring giving program, or becoming a peer-to-peer fundraiser.
- Acquire new donors. Donors who feel close to your nonprofit are more likely to discuss your mission and impact with their friends, family members, and acquaintances. In doing so, they may inspire more support for your cause.
- Enhance your reputation. With so many worthy causes vying for attention, your nonprofit needs to find ways to stand out. By establishing a strong culture of gratitude at your organization, you’ll be able to present a more professional, compassionate image to your community.
Whether you’re launching a capital campaign or advocating for local policy change, your nonprofit needs a solid base of supporters to propel you toward your goals. Developing an effective donor thank-you strategy allows you to pave the way for these valuable relationships.
Key Elements of a Donation Thank-You Email
Compared to direct mail, donor thank-you emails are a much more efficient and versatile way to recognize your donors. Your nonprofit can incorporate engaging elements such as videos and GIFs, while your recipients can access your message whenever and wherever is most convenient to them.
While its specific content will vary, an excellent donor thank-you email should contain these key elements:
An attention-grabbing subject line will make your thank-you emails stand out in inboxes. In fact, about 65% of marketers agree that subject lines have the greatest impact on open rates. Be specific and concise so recipients understand the purpose of your message at a glance. Ideally, your subject line should be around 40 characters and no longer than 60 characters.
Encourage donors to click through by including their names in subject lines. If calling someone’s name can make them turn their head, then inserting it in a subject line can significantly improve your chances of catching their attention.
To create more compelling donor thank-you email subject lines, conduct A/B testing. A/B subject line testing refers to the process of sending one variation of a subject line to one section of your target audience and another variation to another section. By tracking the open rates of your emails, you’ll be able to compare their performance and determine which was more successful in reaching your donors.
In your thank-you email, mention the exact gift amount the donor sent to your nonprofit. This acts as a direct confirmation of their donation and allows them to verify the details. Plus, you’ll make it clear that your nonprofit values their specific contribution, rather than generically appreciating the generosity of its donor base as a whole.
If possible, you should also reference other aspects of their past involvement with your nonprofit, such as their volunteer history or engagement in your social media groups. Bringing up these details demonstrates that your nonprofit cherishes the individual relationship it has with each supporter.
Donors choose to support your nonprofit because they’re inspired to play a role in your community. Reward their investment and bring them closer to your cause by communicating how their gifts made a difference in the lives of those you serve.
Here are just a few examples of how a nonprofit can specify impact in its donation thank-you email:
- “Your $25 gift will go toward purchasing backpacks and other school supplies for middle school students in our county.”
- “Thanks to your $50 donation, we’ll be able to afford veterinary care and vaccinations for Peanut, our most recently rescued rabbit.”
- “Your generous gift of $100 will allow us to provide 40 meals to community members in need.”
To better illustrate how the donor’s gift led to purposeful change, choose someone who has benefited from your nonprofit’s work and share their story. Emphasize how the generosity of donors has changed their life for the better. Your thank-you email recipients will then be able to empathize and associate their contributions with a specific individual, putting a name and a face to your cause.
Pictures, illustrations, and videos have the power to communicate what words cannot. Eye-catching visuals reinforce your message and take no more than a few seconds to process and understand. Consider including a photo of the individual you’re featuring in your impact story or sharing a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a project the donor helped fund.
To ensure that all of your recipients can appreciate your visual content, add alternative (alt) text to your images and closed captions to your videos.
Call to Action
Before you wrap up your thank-you email, let donors know that you’re looking forward to their continued involvement with your nonprofit. Incorporate a specific call to action (CTA) so they know how to continue participating in your goals and initiatives.
Since immediately asking or another gift may diminish the sincerity of your thank-you, opt for suggesting other engagement opportunities instead. For instance, you can invite them to:
- Sign up for your weekly email newsletter
- Follow your social media accounts
- Attend an upcoming event
Make your CTAs stand out by formatting them as a button and adding links to the resources donors need to take the next step, such as your event calendar.
Ensure that your donors feel properly acknowledged for their gifts by closing your thank-you email with a signature from a prominent and recognizable representative of your nonprofit. Some effective options are:
- Your executive director or CEO
- A board member
- A program director
- A beneficiary
Rather than just putting your nonprofit’s name in the signature, designating a specific individual makes your message seem much more personal and sincere.
Donor Thank-You Email Best Practices
A well-written donation thank-you email can go a long way toward retaining your donors and building a loyal community of support around your mission. Follow these best practices to maximize your results:
1. Segment your donors.
Donor segmentation is a crucial aspect of any successful donor communication strategy. After all, no two donors are the same.
You’ll typically want to create different supporter segments for:
- One-time gifts
- Recurring donations
- In-kind gifts
- Planned gifts
- Major gifts
Use donor data to separate your donors based on shared characteristics, such as their giving history and communication preferences. Tailor your messages to each segment, so donors can feel like you’re paying attention to their individual contributions and appreciate the attention you’re devoting to their relationship with your nonprofit.
2. Personalize your thank-you message.
According to a report by Nonprofit Tech for Good, 63% of surveyed nonprofits use personalization in their emails. To personalize your emails, mention each donor’s name, gift amount, and past activities to show that you care about their support.
For example, your long-time donors should receive different donor thank-you emails than your first-time donors. Spotlight their contributions, whether they’ve been a peer-to-peer fundraiser or a frequent event attendee, to demonstrate that you value them beyond their monetary gifts.
This is where segmentation comes into play. For instance, if you’re thanking a set of donors for making regular gifts throughout the year, you might suggest that they opt into your recurring gifts program to maintain their support with more convenience and less effort.
3. Send your donor thank-you email promptly.
Be prompt with following up after each donor’s gift to your nonprofit. This way, donors won’t have to worry that their contribution didn’t go through or feel as though you’ve overlooked their support.
Set up automated thank-you emails to streamline this process and confirm each donation within 48 hours. If you’d like the opportunity to send a more personalized and thoughtful thank-you, you can always follow up your automated messages with another more thorough email.
4. Use consistent language and branding.
Thank-you emails should be one of many touchpoints you’ll have with your donors throughout their involvement with your nonprofit. By keeping all of your communications consistent in terms of your voice, language, and branding, you’ll be able to build credibility and boost your brand recognition over time.
The Nonprofit Communications Trends Report has found the Caregiver archetype to be the most popular personality that nonprofits choose to embody. This means that many strive to come across as warm, supportive, and selfless in their communications. If your nonprofit falls under this umbrella, ensure that your thank-you email reflects these traits by highlighting the care and empathy that your mission inspires.
By presenting a consistent voice and personality, your nonprofit can come across as more authentic and trustworthy. Then, infuse your colors and logo into your thank-you emails to visually stand out.
5. Incorporate engaging stories and images.
Let’s say a donor has just made a gift to a youth mental health nonprofit. When they think back on their impact, which do you think they’d rather reflect on: “Improving access to mental health services” or “Funding a program that works with colleges to prioritize student well-being and provide life skills training for young scholars such as Ingrid, a first-generation chemistry undergrad?”
Donors, especially those from younger generations such as Gen Z, often respond well to powerful stories. They want to know how their dollars facilitated meaningful change. Beyond conveying stories of people who benefitted from the donor’s generosity, you can also share:
- A volunteer’s experience participating in your on-the-ground impact.
- A staff member’s story and passion for your mission.
- Another donor’s reason for getting involved with your nonprofit.
Be sure to obtain permission before sharing these stories and be flexible with changing or leaving out names. Then, add eye-catching images to accompany and enhance your content.
6. Emphasize the donor’s impact.
In your thank-you emails, position donors as the heroes of your nonprofit’s story. This is an excellent way to empower them to continue supporting your mission and fuel even greater change down the road.
Incorporate donor-centric language throughout your email, such as:
- “Thanks to your support…”
- “Because of your generosity…”
- “Your gift allowed us to…”
- “You helped us achieve…”
- “With your support, we…”
You can even go beyond their most recent contribution and reference their history of involvement with your nonprofit to demonstrate that you’ve been paying attention.
7. Mention matching gifts.
According to Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics, over 26 million individuals work for companies with matching gift programs, yet 78% of donors are unaware if their employer offers this type of program. Make it easy for your donors to double or even triple the impact of their gifts, without having to contribute more from their wallets, by spreading awareness of matching gift opportunities in your thank-you emails.
While your message should remain focused on appreciating donors and the difference they’ve made, add a short explanation about matching gifts and a link to more information, such as how to check for eligibility. Additional places to promote this corporate giving opportunity include your website, social media posts, and email newsletters.
8. Provide your contact information.
Remember that the most effective, impactful communications with your donors are two-way. Make it clear that your nonprofit is interested in hearing from them by sharing your contact information, such as:
- A representative of your nonprofit’s name and phone number
- A link to your “Contact Us” page
- Social media pages
Invite donors to share any feedback or ask questions related to your upcoming events, programs, and other involvement opportunities through these channels.
9. Avoid making additional fundraising asks.
While you want to encourage donors to continue interacting with your nonprofit, avoid making any additional asks in your donation thank-you email. It should be obvious that your main intent is to express gratitude for their generosity, rather than send them another veiled fundraising request.
Simply emphasize that your nonprofit is thankful to have the donor in your community. Let them know how often you’ll follow up with them in the future and provide them with ways to update their communication preferences. This allows you to maintain a relationship with each donor in a way that’s convenient and comfortable for them.
10. Send a tax receipt.
When a donor makes a gift to a verified 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they can claim a tax deduction on their federal income tax return. To claim a charitable contribution, they’ll need either a bank record or written communication from the nonprofit. However, for gifts of $250 or more, donors must obtain written acknowledgement, or a tax receipt, containing the following information:
- Organization name
- Gift amount or description of non-cash contribution
- If no goods or services were provided in exchange for the gift, a statement affirming this
- If goods or services were provided in exchange for the gift, a description and good faith estimate of their value or a statement that they were intangible religious benefits
Additionally, you can include details such as your nonprofit’s address, tax ID number, and donation date to ensure that donors have all the information they need upfront.
11. Practice frequent gratitude with donors.
While you’ll primarily send thank-you emails to donors after they make a gift to your nonprofit, there are plenty of other opportunities to get in touch and communicate your appreciation. The more valued your supporters feel, the more invested they’ll be in your impact and long-term success. Incorporate some of these significant occasions for thanking donors into your strategy:
- Donor birthdays. Make your donors feel special by reaching out with a personalized email on their birthday and sending a genuine thank-you for all of their support. You can even spice up your message by emailing a birthday eCard, complete with celebratory designs or animations.
- End of the year. At year-end, as you reflect on all of your hard work and accomplishments, take the time to share them with your donors. After all, they’re the ones who made it all possible through their gifts.
- Holidays. There are many times for celebration throughout the year, such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day. Don’t miss these perfect opportunities to acknowledge and honor your donors!
- Appreciation events. Not all of your events need to focus on fundraising. Build a tight-knit community of supporters by sending email invitations to appreciation events, where you give out branded merchandise and share the impact of donor generosity.
- Fundraising success. After you reach a major fundraising goal, update your donors about this achievement and emphasize that you were only able to reach it with their help.
48% of donors indicate that regular email communications are the most likely to keep them engaged. Plan to infuse gratitude into your regular email messaging and nurture meaningful relationships that last.
4 Donor Thank-You Email Templates
Whether you’re about to craft your donor thank-you emails from scratch or refine your existing messaging, use the following templates to set your writing efforts up for success. Remember to keep your nonprofit’s brand, voice, and personality in mind as you tailor your emails to resonate with your specific audience.
One-time Donation Thank-You Email
Subject Line: [Donor’s Name], your $[Donation Amount] gift made a difference
Dear [Donor’s Name],
Thank you for your recent gift of $[donation amount] to [Nonprofit’s Name]. Because of your generosity and support, we’re able to pursue our mission of [nonprofit’s mission].
[Include an image or video illustrating the impact of the donor’s gift.]
Your donation empowers us to continue [nonprofit’s impact, such as “providing crucial support to those affected by disasters”]. Your gift will go toward [specific impact, such as “supplying emergency blankets and meals to displaced families”].
We value every gift as a generous investment in our mission. Thank you for your commitment to bettering our community and helping [constituents your nonprofit serves]. To learn more about how you can continue supporting our impact, [include a call to action such as “sign up for our weekly newsletter updates”].
It’s your generosity that allows us to perform our crucial work. Thank you again.
New Recurring Donor Thank-You Email
Subject Line: [Donor’s Name], thank you for your [frequency] support!
Dear [Donor’s Name],
Thank you for joining our [frequency] donor community! Your [frequency] gift of $[donation amount] to [Nonprofit’s Name] will go a long way toward helping us achieve our mission of [nonprofit’s mission].
Your generous recurring donations empower us to provide [specific service or support] to [constituents your nonprofit serves] such as [specific constituent and who they are]. Thanks to your [frequency] gifts, we’ll be able to [specific impact, such as “supply the constituent with healthy meals for the entire month”].
[Include an image or video featuring the specific constituent.]
We’re so grateful to have your ongoing support. Without donors like you, we wouldn’t be able to create the impact that we do. To learn more about how your contributions make a difference in our cause, we encourage you to [include a call to action such as “attend our upcoming fundraising event”].
To increase or modify your recurring donations, access your account by clicking on the button below.
[Include a button/link to the donor login page.]
Thank you again for your generosity.
Event Attendee Thank-You Email
Subject Line: [Donor’s Name], thank you for making [Event Name] a success!
Dear [Donor’s Name],
We wanted to reach out and express a heartfelt thank-you for supporting [Nonprofit’s Name] and attending [Event Name]. Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, we were able to raise $[amount raised] to support our mission of [nonprofit’s mission].
[Include images and/or videos of the event.]
This amount will help us power [a new project or initiative] that will enable us to provide [specific service or support] to [constituents your nonprofit serves]. If you would like to learn more about how you can support our mission, [include a call to action such as “follow us on social media”].
We couldn’t make our impact without your help. Thank you again for your attendance and support. We look forward to seeing you at future events!
Holiday Donor Thank-You Email
Subject Line: [Donor’s Name], we’re celebrating you this [Holiday]!
Dear [Donor’s Name],
[Holiday-specific greeting, such as “Merry Christmas”]! During this festive occasion, we wanted to reach out and express how grateful we are to have you in our community. It’s thanks to generous donors like you that we’re able to continue fulfilling our important mission of [nonprofit’s mission] here at [Nonprofit’s Name].
Today, we want to celebrate you and everything you’ve helped us achieve. Recently, thanks to your unwavering support, we’ve been able to [specific impact, such as “provide veterinary treatment and find loving homes for 12 of our shelter animals”].
[Include an image or video illustrating the impact mentioned above.]
Please accept our sincerest thanks and best wishes for a wonderful [Holiday] with your friends and family. We hope to continue celebrating all the good that we’re able to accomplish with you as we turn our attention to [specify next goals or initiatives such as “upgrading our kennel spaces and building an adjoining dog park space for our shelter animals”].
If you’d like to learn more about how you can support our efforts, [include a call to action such as “opt in to receive text updates from us”].
How to Use eCards to Elevate Your Donor Thank-You Emails
Whether you’re trying to thank your donors or raise funds for your mission, the quality of your nonprofit-donor relationships hinges on the quality of your communications. While a traditional email can do the job of conveying information to your recipients, an eCard in their inbox is much more likely to catch their eyes.
Youth for Understanding (YFU) is one innovative nonprofit that leverages eCards to spread gratitude:
Beyond adding visual appeal to your donor communications, using eCard software such as eCardWidget comes with a host of additional benefits:
- Create branded, customizable email templates to use again and again.
- Collect sender and recipient email addresses to inform future outreach.
- Schedule eCards to send at a later date and time.
- Share eCards through SMS and social media.
- Include a donation option alongside sending eCards.
- Add animated GIFs, like Teremana’s eCards.
To get a better idea of how your nonprofit can incorporate eCards into its donor thank-you strategy, check out our brief video overview:
As the video illustrates, you have complete creative freedom when it comes to designing your eCards, from incorporating your colors to adding your logo. A little effort can pay off significantly by making a memorable impression on your donors and making them feel appreciated as an important part of your nonprofit’s community.
Building a Loyal Community with Donor Thank-You Emails
Sincere and frequent gratitude is key to building donor relationships that last. While there are many ways to thank your donors, from appreciation videos to social media shout-outs, a thank-you email is a tried-and-true and convenient way to reach all of your donors.
eCards can elevate your donor thank-you email and bring an extra bit of joy to your donor’s inbox. Plus, you can use eCard tools for raising funds, spreading awareness, and more.
To learn more about how your nonprofit can step up its donor appreciation game, check out these additional resources:
- How to Make Every Word Count in A Donation Thank You Letter. Perfect your donor thank-you letter-writing skills with this detailed guide.
- Charity eCards for Your Nonprofit: A Comprehensive Guide. Harness the vast potential of eCards by exploring these benefits and best practices for nonprofits.
- Digital Card Ideas To Engage Your Nonprofit’s Supporters. Use these compelling eCard ideas to inspire your nonprofit’s strategies.