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How to Write The Best Thank-You Letter for Donations + Three Templates and Samples

Tatiana Morand  07 February 2020  0 comments
 

thank you letter for donations

 

“On behalf of XYZ Organization, I’d like to thank you for your recent donation…”


Have you ever received a thank you letter for a donation that started like that? Not exactly warm and fuzzy. That’s why Zan decided she had to change the donor thank you letter at her nonprofit. 


Zan was the new development director at a youth services organization. There was a lot of exciting stuff happening at the organization, but you’d never know it from the boring, dry, and uninspiring letter they were sending in response to every donation received. The boilerplate letter sounded like it could have been written by a robot, and worst of all, regular donors got the same letter multiple times. The whole thing was impersonal and routine.


Before Zan could start implementing her new fundraising ideas, she needed a new thank you letter.

 

Are you in the same boat? In this article, I'll cover:

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Why Your Nonprofit Thank You Letter Matters

Nonprofits spend so much time trying to get donations in the first place, it’s easy to consider a thank you as a simple receipt, not an important part of donor communication. But a good thank you letter is not as much about tax documents as it is emotions.


When a donor gives your nonprofit a contribution of money or goods, whether in response to an appeal, online campaign or just from the goodness of their heart, they’re making an emotional decision. Giving feels good, and supporting a cause you believe in can mean a lot. Your “thank you for the donation” message is part of that experience.


A good thank you letter or email can keep the donor engaged in their positive feelings. It shows them they’re appreciated, their gift matters, and you value their participation in your mission. A boring and rote thank you doesn’t do any of that, and is truly a missed opportunity to deepen your connection with your donors. 

13 Best Practices For Your Nonprofit Thank You Letter

Zan followed 13 best practices as she developed her new thank you letters for donations, goods, and services. 

1. Use the donor’s name

Nothing says, “This is a form letter” more clearly than failing to include a donor’s name. Starting your thank you letter for a donation off with “Dear Friend” makes people feel like your nonprofit doesn’t care — not the tone you want to set in a thank you to donors! 


Mail merges make it easy to add names and personal details into your thank you letters. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference in how your donors will feel. 

2. Send it promptly

Don’t delay — the faster you can get your thank you to donors, the better. A prompt thank you allows you to extend the good feelings the donor has about making a gift and heads off any buyer’s remorse that may otherwise set in. 


Try to send your thank you message within 48-72 hours of receiving it. This ensures that:


  • Donors feel appreciated immediately

  • Donors remember they gave to your organization

  • Donors don’t accidentally get solicited again before they’re thanked.

3. Send it from a person

Letters feel the most personal when they’re from one person, not an entire organization. Often, you’ll want to go with the “top-ranking” person at your organization, like your executive director or chair of your board, but consider making the sender a volunteer or client impacted by your programs.


Zan decided that most often the letter would come from the organization’s executive director, but that the thank you for her end of year campaign would come from a volunteer tutor in the after school program. 

4. Show impact

Your thank you for a donation is part of your donor communication stream, and a chance to tell them more about your mission, and their impact. Donors want to know that the money they’ve given is making a difference, so reference how you’ll use it.

thank you letter for donation

This letter from water.org shows the impact of a gift by quickly telling the story of Anisa, and how access to clean water changed her life. 

5. Be warm and friendly

Receiving a thank you for your donation should feel good. Keep the tone warm and friendly, not stiff and formal. As you write your letter, picture a volunteer or donor that you like and appreciate, and imagine you’re writing only to them. Avoid overly lofty language like, “on behalf of X Organization.” Instead, talk to your donors like friends. 

6. Use donor-centered language

A thank you letter is about acknowledging your donors, not singing your own praises. Keep the focus on the donor and their contributions by using “you” more than “we/us” and talking about what the donor has made possible, rather than what your organization does. Key phrases include:

  • “Because of you”

  • “With your help”

  • “Your gift”

  • “Thanks to your support”

  • “You make X possible.”

  • “We couldn’t do it without you.”

7. Avoid empty jargon

Nonprofits have a lot of sector-specific jargon that means a lot if you work in the field and means absolutely nothing if you don’t. Keep that jargon out of your external communications, including thank you letters to donors. 


Your average donor won’t connect with phrases like “launching a capital campaign,” or “capacity-building grant,” but they’ll understand “raising money to build a new library,” or “providing more meals to homeless people.” Say what you mean so they can get excited about it. 

8. Reference their history

Loyal, recurring donors are a wonderful thing. Celebrate their loyalty and commitment in your thank you letters. Show them you know, remember, and value their contributions. Use donor segmentation in your database and mail merges to personalize your thank you letters with references to the donor’s history with your organization, like:

  • “Since 2010, you’ve supported people in our community who are battling addiction.”

  • “I’m so glad you could attend our recent seminar on everyday actions for conservation.”

  • “Thank you for being someone we can count on every year.” 

9. Add personal touches

Make your thank you even more personal by adding hand-signed signatures and notes from relevant people. Check your contact database for relationships with staff and board members, recent event attendance, and other information that you can reference in your letter, or add in a hand-written note in the margins of the letter.

10. Offer more contact

Imagine a donor is so moved by your thank you that they want to learn even more about your organization. Make it easy for them to do so by including contact information for the letter-sender, along with links to your website, social media, and email list (if the communication is electronic). 


As an experiment, Zan added a PS to her thank you, offering her own contact information, too. 

11. Don’t make a direct ask

A thank you letter is about appreciation for the donor, not your needs. Imagine you’re making your child write grandma a thank you note for their recent birthday presents. You’d encourage them to express their thanks, and perhaps share a little about how they plan to use the gift. You wouldn’t let them make it all about what they want for Christmas, right? The same follows for nonprofit thank you letters--they are not a good opportunity for another ask. 


Focus on gratitude — you can send another ask soon, but not before you’ve adequately expressed your thanks. 

12. Include quotes and stories

The best people to speak to your nonprofit’s impact are the people you serve. Including quotes and stories from them can give your thank you letter more authenticity and drive emotion. 


Zan interviewed kids from her organization’s after school program about the things they did, what they liked about the program, and what they’d be doing if they weren’t there. She created a file of quotes to pull from for thank you letters, and found they instantly made her letters more interesting to read. 

13. Add appropriate visuals

Use photos, videos, and infographics to show your donors the people they’ve helped, the places you’ve worked, and the changes you’ve made together. Information paired with images is remarkably more memorable, and can keep the good feelings from your thank you going even longer. 

Sample Thank You Letters For Nonprofits

Keeping all 13 best practices in mind, Zan wrote three thank you letter templates--two for monetary donations, and one for in-kind donations. 

 

Download all the templates and samples here, or read on! 

Sample Letter 1: Long Version

Template:

thank you letter for donation

Sample:

Dear Luis,


Thank you for your donation to XYZ Nonprofit! It really makes a difference for the children in our community. 


Thanks to you, kids have a safe place to go after school. Instead of going home alone while their families are at work, our kids are learning to play soccer and make art, forming friendships with peers and relationships with adult mentors, and improving their grades at our Homework Help Center. 


Those three hours after the end of the school day can make a crucial difference in kids’ lives. Consider our friend Kim, age 10. Before joining our program, she’d walk home with her younger sister, and then lock the door until their mom got home. If she needed homework help, she had to wait.  Thanks to your support, we were able to open a program at Kim’s school, and now, she and her sister go to XYZ Aftercare instead of their empty apartment.


Kim says it best: “XYZ Aftercare makes everyday fun! I took a coding class, and have my homework done before I go home.” Kim’s mom adds, “She learns so much! I never felt safe having the girls alone so long, but couldn’t afford any other options.” Thanks to you, Kim’s family doesn’t have to worry about how to pay for this care, and Kim and her sister are somewhere safe and enriching every day after school. 


Thank you again for your ongoing support of our kids!


Sincerely,

Alice Agency Director


#2 Email Version

Template:

thank you email for donation

Sample:

Dear Luis,


Thank you so much for your generous donation to XYZ Nonprofit! We truly appreciate your commitment to the kids in our community. 

thank you letter image

Caption: In a recent all-city field day, the 4th graders at Blaine prevailed at tug-of-war against the 4th graders at McPherson. Thanks for pulling for everyone! 

With your help, we’ve provided after school care to 300 kids this year. They’re building healthy relationships with peers and adults, improving their grades, and having a great time in our after school programs at six sites around the city.


We couldn’t do it without you! Thank you.


Sincerely,
Alice Agency Director


#3 Thank You Letter for In-Kind Donation

Template:

thank you letter for in kind donation

Sample:


Dear Luis,


Kids will be happily snacking afterschool, thanks to your donation of six cases of graham crackers. Healthy eating is an important part of our after school routine, and we truly appreciate your support. Thank you! 


I thought I’d share a couple quotes from the kids with you:


“Snack is my favorite part of XYZ Aftercare!”--Ramone, age 6


“I like snack time because I can talk to my friends and eat something yummy,”--Zara, age 8

“Snacks are important because I have a lot of homework and my brain needs FOOOOOOD,” Joey, age 9


As you can see, your contribution is very important to our most important people, the kids we serve. It’s important to me, too. Your ongoing commitment to our kids truly means the world, and we really couldn’t do it without you, Luis.


Thank you!


Sincerely,
Alice Agency Director

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Thank Your Donors Abundantly


Over the next year, Zan noticed that her giving totals were going up a bit, and that her donor retention rate was improving. She knew her commitment to gratitude was part of that. 


A few months after she changed her nonprofit thank you letters, Zan was surprised to get a call from a donor. “I just wanted to thank you for the nice letter,” the donor told her. “And I’d love to learn about volunteering, can we talk?”


Most of the time, a thank you letter won’t have such a direct and immediate result, but every time it can communicate to donors that they are valued, appreciated, and an important part of your community. 

 

Do you have any thank-you letter tips to share? Comment below and let me know! 


Tatiana Morand

Posted by Tatiana Morand

Published Friday, 07 February 2020 at 1:23 PM

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