In the nonprofit industry, it’s well understood that donors are integral to how nonprofit organizations are able to achieve all that they do. That’s why it’s crucial to forge positive and lasting relationships with your donors through a variety of stewardship techniques.
One such technique is thanking your donors after they’ve made a gift to your nonprofit, such as by sending them a thank-you letter. In this guide, we’ll cover the following:
- Why should you send donor thank-you letters?
- Different types of donor thank-you letters
- 7 tips for writing donor thank-you letters
- Donor thank-you letter template
- Using eCards to spice up your donor thank-you letters
- Conclusion and additional resources
In addition to donors, the recipients of your nonprofit’s thank-you letters can include volunteers or other supporters. Let’s delve deeper into why thank-you letters are an effective stewardship technique and why you should send them.
Why should you send donor thank-you letters?
Donor thank-you letters are important to nurturing a strong relationship with your donors. They make your donors feel valued and appreciated, making them more likely to continue supporting and making gifts to your nonprofit. A good thank-you letter will also give meaning and purpose to a donor’s relationship with your nonprofit, increasing donor satisfaction.
Letters can also make your nonprofit’s communications stand out. For example, you could send your thank-you letter along with the donation tax receipt after a donor makes a gift. This shows donors that you’re putting effort into your relationship with them and that you care about making them feel good about their choice to donate to you.
Different types of donor thank-you letters
Donor thank-you letters can vary greatly in type. Some types of donor thank-you letters include:
- Direct mail. The classic donor thank-you letter is a physical note mailed to supporters. Handwrite yours for some extra personalization so donors can concretely see the effort you’re making for them.
- Email. Email thank-you letters are similar to physical ones sent through direct mail, but they are faster, more convenient, and more cost-effective. You can even automate thank-you emails through your CRM.
- Mobile text. These letters tend to be shorter and more along the lines of a quick thank-you. To effectively use mobile text letters, send automated ones immediately after a donor makes a gift. Later on, follow up with a longer letter, such as an email.
- Social media post. Since social media posts are visible to everyone who views your page, these letters tend to be more general and not specific to a single donor. However, writing a social media shoutout to a major donor can be a meaningful way to show your appreciation for someone who has made a big impact on your nonprofit.
- eCards. Essentially online greeting cards, eCards can make for unique donor thank-you letters that can be very engaging and effective, especially around holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Use a fun and high-quality image for your eCard and add a heartfelt thank-you to make it a great letter to your donors.
- Video. As another untraditional donor thank-you letter, videos are an entertaining way for you to convey your gratitude to your donors. They take a lot of effort to film and edit, but when done well, donors recognize and appreciate this effort. For bonus points, include footage of your beneficiaries, so that donors know who their funds are supporting.
Each type of donor thank-you letter has its own unique benefits and drawbacks. You’ll want to use types that work best for your nonprofit and your donors. Consider demographics—if your donors are mostly older individuals, they might appreciate physical letters sent to them via direct mail. On the other hand, if your donors are younger and belong to Generation Z, they might be more inclined to interact with social media and eCards.
7 tips for writing donor thank-you letters
1. Show your genuine gratitude.
When writing your donation thank-you letters, stay focused on showing your gratitude and recognizing the support your donor has given you. Use a warm, friendly, and conversational tone—imagine talking to a friend, and adopt that tone in your writing. This will help your donors feel closer to your nonprofit and result in stronger relationships.
Resist the temptation to overeducate your donor on your nonprofit’s cause and activities. This information will likely be redundant, as most donors will likely have done their research on your nonprofit before deciding to support you.
2. Demonstrate concrete impact.
Donors want to know how their gifts are being used and how they’ve helped to create an impact on the world. In your donor thank-you letters, demonstrate concrete impact by mentioning tangible goals and outcomes you’ve achieved or hope to achieve. For example, if a donor made a gift of $50 to your food bank, you can tell them that their funds will help you feed a family of four for a week.
For best results, weave anecdotes with data. Choose a beneficiary to focus on and tell their story and how donations will help them. Then, back the anecdote up by providing statistics to prove your impact. By combining the two, you’ll appeal to your donors’ emotions and reasoning, resulting in a greater understanding of the change you’re driving.
3. Add personalization.
Everyone wants to feel special, and donors are no exception. Here are a few ways you can personalize your donation thank-you letters:
- Use the donor’s first and last name.
- Mention the specific amount donated and any previous donations.
- Reference your donors’ volunteer history.
- Bring awareness to their employer’s matching gift program, if they have one.
With personalized thank-you letters, your donors will feel that you are genuinely interested in connecting with them. By bringing up their volunteer history and the other ways they’ve supported your organization, it shows them that you value them outside of their ability to make gifts.
4. Be concise.
While you may want to spend pages and pages explaining to donors how much you appreciate them and what they’re helping your nonprofit achieve, your donors are busy individuals. Keep your letter short and sweet so that donors can quickly move on with the knowledge that you value them.
5. Use images and graphics.
Images can break up text and provide visual appeal. You can use graphic design to include infographics and photos of beneficiaries and volunteers in your thank-you letters to provide curious donors with information in a visually engaging way. Make sure that the images are well-composed and high-definition. Additionally, if your thank-you letter is electronic, your images should be optimized to look good on both desktops and mobile devices.
6. Offer more connection opportunities.
By making a gift to your nonprofit, donors have demonstrated their interest in your cause and your success. This means that they might be open and willing to connect with you in other ways as well. Take the initiative and invite them to fundraising events, inform them about volunteer opportunities, and ask them if they’d like to opt-in to your nonprofit’s newsletter.
7. Send it in a timely manner.
To ensure that your donor feels appreciated, send your thank-you letter within a few days after they have made their gift. Ideally, you should send a donation tax receipt almost immediately after a gift has been made, and you can use that opportunity to include a thank-you letter. Alternatively, you can send a quick thank-you text and follow up later with a longer email or eCard letter.
Donor thank-you letter template
Here is a template you can use for your next donor thank-you letter:
Hello [donor’s first and last name],
Thank you for your donation of [amount] to [nonprofit’s name]! We’re so grateful that you’ve chosen to support us and our mission to [nonprofit’s mission/cause]. With donations such as yours, we’re able to continue working towards a [goal of nonprofit, e.g. world free of hunger].
Your donation will go towards [goal of fundraising campaign]. [Describe how this goal is important to your nonprofit’s greater goal, detail concrete and specific actions you’re taking, and state how donations will help you take these actions].
We deeply appreciate your commitment to helping [nonprofit’s beneficiaries], and we’ll stay in touch with you about the progress of your gift. If you’d like to stay connected, [inform the recipient about connection opportunities such as subscribing to a newsletter, attending an upcoming fundraising event, etc.].
Thank you for supporting [nonprofit name]—we truly wouldn’t be able to make the change we want without help from donors like you.
You’ll want to revise this template to be more or less formal based on your nonprofit’s voice and brand. Additionally, consider what type of donor thank-you letter you’re creating, and match your writing to that. For example, if you intend to send a text, you’ll want a much shorter letter around 160 characters to ensure that your writing doesn’t get cut off.
Using eCards to spice up your donor thank-you letters
Sending an eCard as a donor thank-you letter is an easy way to more deeply engage with your donors. Here are some benefits of using eCards for your donor thank-you letters:
- Convenient. You can integrate your CRM with eCard software and schedule sending eCards to donors who made a gift within the last 48 hours.
- Efficient. Donors will receive your eCards almost immediately after you send them. Additionally, you won’t need to pay for printing materials and stamps like you would for a typical direct mail letter.
- Extra marketing. With social media integration, donors can share the eCards they receive on their social media pages, essentially helping you promote your nonprofit’s cause. This allows you to reach individuals that might not otherwise have come into contact with your nonprofit.
- Added customization. eCards are very customizable, allowing you to choose what images to use, what text to include, and what font that text will be in.
- Creative. Sending eCards to your donors gives you the opportunity to show your nonprofit’s creativity and to connect with your donors in a fun way.
- Interactive. eCards aren’t limited to just text and images. You can add animations or little videos as well. For example, check out Teremana’s animated Valentine’s day eCards.
Using eCards doesn’t mean sacrificing the text and meaning behind your letters—much like a physical greeting card, you can include a message alongside the card image. To create compelling eCards, you can partner with an eCard software solution such as eCardWidget, which offers many features including multi-language support, customizable email templates, and read receipts.
Conclusion and additional resources
Donor thank-you letters are a crucial part of stewarding your nonprofit’s donors. Establish a clear strategy for your letters and consider ways you can make them stand out, such as by creating video or eCard letters. Aside from making great donor thank-you letters, eCards can also benefit your nonprofit by being used for fundraising purposes or for event invitations.
If you’re interested in learning more about how eCards can benefit your organization, take a look at some of these resources:
- Charity eCards for Your Nonprofit: A Comprehensive Guide – Read about how charity eCards can support your nonprofit outside of donor thank-you letters.
- Birthday Fundraisers: How to Secure Year-Round Support – Birthday fundraisers are a unique way for nonprofits to make connections with donors. Learn more about how you can leverage eCards for them.
- 24 Nonprofit Christmas Fundraising Ideas for Holiday Giving – This guide goes over popular Christmas fundraising ideas to inspire your nonprofit’s year-end efforts.