7 Tips for Thanking Donors

Great Give Day is just around the corner, and like us, you're probably focused on promoting the big day as much as you can. But have you thought about the part that comes after? No, we don't mean the part where you get to make a more significant impact. We're talking about the thank you letter!

Saying thank you to your supporters is essential to donor relations and retention. It's one of the first impressions your organization makes and lets donors know you appreciate them.

We know you're busy, so here are some tips to help you efficiently compose the perfect thank you letter.

Keep it personal

No one wants to feel like they're just another number. This is especially true when receiving a thank you. When crafting a letter, avoid the tell-tale signs that you're using a template like, "On behalf of the Board of Directors…" or "We at [organization’s name] would like to thank you…"

Sending a personal thank you letter is one of the most important ways to inspire recurring gifts.

Focus on the donor, not the gift

The donor wants to know that you're thankful and appreciate the contribution. It might seem like the best way to do this is by focusing on what the donor gave (you know, the thing you understand). But really, the best approach is to focus on the person. Focusing on the donor's passions lets them know that you appreciate their gift. It also enables the donor to know that their values are in line with your mission — this will encourage them to continue giving.

Saying something like, "[Organization’s name] appreciates you and all of the love and passion you have for your community," makes the recipient feel noticed and like their intentions matter. Donors don't give $20 just to give $20. They donate $20 because they believe in your mission and want to help make an impact.

Mention the impact the donor is making

Let the donor know what their donation supported and how it helped. Be specific when talking about the donor's impact. If a donor gave $20 to a particular fund for buying pencils, let them know that they provided 144 pencils to local students. Donors want to know where their money is going and are more likely to give more if they feel they can trust your nonprofit with their donation. It doesn't matter how big or small the gift: Each should be celebrated.

Did you know that 49% of first-time donors purposefully give less than what they are capable of? It's true! Donors do this to test the waters with your organization and are looking for a reason to continue giving.

Worried that you can't tell the donor the exact impact of their donation? That's OK as long as you try to be as specific as possible. For example, if the gift was to an endowed fund, you can still talk about how you receive a payout every year and even mention what you've done in the past. The most important thing is that you help the donor feel connected to your mission and let them know that their donation is making an impact.

Looks matter

Don't lead with “thank you.” End with words of gratitude.

Thank you letters should start with a focus on the subject of the message: the donor. Mention the help they are providing and how awesome they are. At the end of the letter, say a great big thank you.

If you typically use thank you letters as another opportunity to ask for more donations, maybe try a different approach. If you thank a donor by asking for more money, you're likely to chase them away. Doing this makes them feel like a bank, or worse, like their donation did not matter. Instead, use the thank you letter as a moment to appreciate the donor, their passion and the relationship they have with your organization.

You can still include a call to action. Instead of asking for more donations, consider adding a P.S. to suggest other ways the donor can stay involved. For example, ask the donor to follow and like your social media profiles or forward your campaign email to close friends. Word-of-mouth promotions tend to have better results, and someone who just gave to your organization is the perfect person to speak about the importance of your work.

Finally, make sure to personally sign your letter. Nothing says “impersonal template” like no signature or a typed name at the end of a message. Besides, after putting in all of this thought and time, don't you want the donor to know who sent it?

Be prompt

Send the thank you letter within two weeks of receiving the gift. We know your schedules are busy and that it feels like thank you letters become lower priorities as project deadlines approach. But, we promise, it's worth the time to write that letter.

A thank you letter is an opportunity to make a positive impression on a donor. Most donors won't give again — in fact, only 10% of donors are likely to continue. But these same donors are more likely to keep giving if they feel appreciated and build a relationship with the organization.

Stay in touch

Don’t stop with the thank you. Add the donor to your email lists, invite them to a special event, or ask them to get coffee with you. It's essential to keep in contact with them (but don't go overboard!) and do it in meaningful ways that help your donor build a relationship with your organization and mission.

Send the tax receipt separately

Try to think of the tax receipt as a business transaction. It lets the donor know that you received their donation and they can file it to help when tax time comes around. But your thank you letter lets the donor know you notice their contribution and appreciate the gift they've made. A thank you note is so much more than a business transaction. It's a moment to really make a positive impression with the donor and encourage a relationship between them and your organization.

Press Contact

Jeff Danna
Communications Manager

About Us
Founded in 2002, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout Northeast Iowa by serving donors, making grants to local nonprofit organizations, and providing community leadership through convening and collaboration. Guided by the values of integrity, equity and inclusion, collaboration, excellence and innovation, we seek to ensure a vibrant and inclusive Greater Dubuque region with resources and opportunity for all.