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A Guide to Crafting the Perfect Donation Thank-You Letter

May 21, 2020

thank-you letter

If you’ve ever spent time fundraising, you know that thanking your donors is one of the most important parts of the business. 

After all, donor appreciation is a fundamental element necessary to grow a nonprofit organization by increasing donor retention and boosting fundraising revenue.

That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to donation thank-you letter writing. As we walk through each of the following topics, you can build a better understanding of the work that goes into personally thanking donors for their contributions to your mission:

  • Why send a thank-you letter for donations?
  • Components of a donation thank-you letter
  • Donation thank-you letter template
  • Examples of impressive donation thank-you letters
  • Direct mail vs. email thank-you letters

Crafting the perfect donation thank-you letter

Whether you're just starting a nonprofit or you run an established organization seeking funding in a difficult time, these are some best practices you can follow to ensure success. Ready to get started? Let’s jump in!

1. Why send a thank-you letter for donations?

A donation thank-you letter is a simple response of gratitude for a gift received by an individual or an organization. Typically only a few paragraphs long, thank-you letters provide an opportunity for organizations to share their appreciation and demonstrate the impact of each donation.

While anyone can send a donation thank-you letter (including individuals fundraising for a mission trip, medical expense, or another large cost), these types of letters are most commonly written and sent by nonprofits and other charitable organizations.

Here are a few main reasons for a nonprofit to send a donation thank-you letter:

  • Show your gratitude: Donors that don’t feel like their contribution was adequately appreciated are not likely to return for a follow-up donation. Plus, it’s basic human decency to thank someone for a gift!
  • Keep donors coming back: On the other hand, donors who do feel appreciated are more likely to become repeat and even recurring donors. Boosting your donor retention rate is a great way to bring in consistent funding without constantly seeking new donors.
  • Share donation impact: By specifically expressing the impact that each donation has on your nonprofit’s overall mission, you can help donors better visualize their personal involvement in the organization. Including pictures and testimonials is a great way to exemplify this impact.
  • Keep your organization top-of-mind: You don’t want the donor to forget about your organization as soon as they click submit. Instead, keep reminding them of the good work you are doing together, as well as further opportunities for involvement.

By sending a personalized thank-you letter to each donor, you can show that your organization cares about each and every donation – no matter the size. Not only will this help to boost your fundraising efforts, but also to strengthen relationships with supporters.

2. Components of a donation thank-you letter

If you’re new to writing donation thank-you letters, it might seem like a daunting task. However, an optimized thank-you letter can be simplified and broken down into eight essential components, making it a much simpler and easy-to-manage process.

thank-you letter formatting template

Here are eight elements to include in an effective donation thank-you letter:

  • Personalized greeting: Starting off by addressing the recipient by name sets a positive, comfortable tone for the whole letter. Use your database to make sure you’re using your donors’ preferred names in the letter.
  • Give thanks for a specific gift: To avoid your letter seeming like a generic thank-you note sent automatically to all donors, it’s a good idea to thank each individual for their specific contribution. This way the donor knows that you see and appreciate their particular gift.
  • Summary of nonprofit mission: Including a few sentences summarizing your nonprofit’s overall mission is a great way to remind donors what you’re working toward and how they’re helping. Most likely, donors are somewhat familiar with the organization, so this part doesn’t need to be extremely in-depth.
  • Details of current project or campaign: This part dives more specifically into the current actions taken by your organization to further your mission, whether that’s running a camp, hosting an event, or promoting a new project.
  • Address the impact the donation will make: When donors give, it’s because they want to help others. That’s why it’s so important to demonstrate the specific impact a donation has on your constituents or programming success. Whether you work with children, animals, or the elderly, it’s a great idea to tell positive stories about individuals who have been impacted by the generosity of your donors.
  • Contact information: It’s important to provide a way for donors to reach out with any questions or concerns about your organization as a whole or about their specific gift. Let the reader know that your team would love to hear from them and give them a clear way to reach you.
  • Closing: Be sure to sign your donation thank-you letters from an individual person rather than the organization as an entity. This leads to a more personal feel, as a letter written from one person to another. Consider sending the letters from a position of leadership such as your executive director to make your letter stand out!
  • P.S.: According to eye-motion studies, the P.S. is often the first thing a recipient reads after scanning for their name. That means it’s important to carefully craft your P.S. statement, rather than leaving it as an afterthought (or out altogether).

While some of this information is specific to the individual donor and, thus, adjusted for each letter you write (such as greeting and specific thanks), some will carry over from letter to letter (your mission, impact, and current projects).

With helpful resources like online fundraising platforms and text-to-give tools, a lot of this information can be collected automatically and extracted for your donation thank-you letters, making the process easier than ever.

3. Donation thank-you letter template

If you’re ready to start writing your donation thank-you letters but you’re not sure what to say, here’s a well-crafted template you can use for your own donor correspondence. As you read carefully, you can see that this specific template incorporates each of the aforementioned essential components of an effective donation thank-you letter:

Dear [donor’s first name],

Thank you for your generous donation of [gift size in dollars] on [date of donation]. Here at [organization name], we are passionate about [brief summary of mission statement].

Your generous donation makes a positive impact on [overall goal] by [current project], [current project], and [current project]. Thanks to the money raised through [name of particular campaign or fundraiser], [number of constituents] now have access to [benefit] and [benefit].

For more information about [organization name] and how your gifts have made a difference in the community, please reach out to us by [phone number] or [email address]. We’d love to hear from you!

Yours truly,

[Full name]  
[Title within organization]

P.S. To learn more about the latest news at [organization name], check out our website at [URL] or follow us on [social media platform] at [username].

For more example templates, check out these free downloadable letter templates that you can customize with your own information and start sending to valuable donors!

4. Examples of impressive donation thank-you letters

Sometimes the best way of understanding how to do something is by taking a look at powerful examples that others have completed in the past. That’s why we’ve compiled these four top-tier donation thank-you letters from nonprofits just like yours. Read through these examples and pick out some best practices you’d like to emulate in your own letters!

DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose works with students and teachers across the globe to collect and distribute valuable resources to underfunded schools. Then, the students who receive these supplies send back personalized, heart-warming thank-you letters to the donors that support their education.

Here are two examples of thank-you letters from elementary school children demonstrating their appreciation for various donated school supplies:

Letter #1

Dear friends,

My brain is getting smarter from the tablet! Thank you!

Love, Liliana

Letter #2

Thank you so so so so…[478 more “so’s”]... SO much.

*Gasps for breath*

You should feel special. This took me 2 hours to finish all 483 “so’s.”

These simple letters are effective because they’re coming directly from the beneficiaries of the donations. Plus, children automatically add an extra layer of unique ability and personalization!

Love146

Love146 is a nonprofit organization seeking to end child trafficking by providing extensive prevention education and working with victims and survivors of child trafficking.

Here is an example of a donation thank-you letter from the organization in response to a successful #GivingTuesday campaign:

Letter #3

You have the power to create change. -love Sam.

This morning, I walked into the office and found a small package from students in New Jersey; they had made cards for children in our Survivor Care Program. The message from Sam stood out: you have the power to create change.

Moments later, at 9:02 am, we met our #GivingTuesday fundraising goal. I’m not joking. 9:02. We’re thankful for all of you who gave (and even for you who had the stamina to open one more charity email today and read it - bravo). Like Sam said, you have the power to create change.

Since it began in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become one of the biggest annual grassroots events for Love146. We’re thankful for every gift: from our matching donor, Super Bowl Champion Britton Colquitt and his family, to a $10 donor this morning who shared, “I donated because children should have fun and play.”

Because of your generosity, more children will be reached by our Prevention Education and Survivor Care programs. It matters for each of them that we take the power we have and use it to create change. Thanks for doing that today.

Marilyn Murray

Director of Communications, Love146

This donation thank-you letter is written with an informal, conversational tone— as if written from one friend to another. By using humor and storytelling techniques, the letter is a quick, easy, and interesting read.

In addition to a basic message of thanks, the sender also takes the time to dive into the organization’s background with #GivingTuesday as well as note specific examples of where the funding will go.

“Break 4 Jesus” Catechetical Camp

Break for Jesus is a religious organization that hosts a week-long spring break camp for children in Canada. This is an example of a donation thank-you letter written to their major sponsor, a Ukrainian credit union:

Letter #4

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Dear committee members -

We wish to extend our warmest thanks for your very generous donation in support of Break for Jesus Camp, which successfully ran from March 10-16th. You are our major sponsor! Over 60 children participated in a week of faith, fun and friendship at the beautiful Mount Mary Retreat Centre in Ancaster.

The Sisters welcomed us warmly, while the youth counselors and adult volunteers worked hard to make this a week where our children discovered more about their Ukrainian Catholic faith and our Byzantine traditions, and had a great time doing it.

Each child made an icon on glass (in reverse), listened to teachings, prayed, sang, played games and sports, and made many friends. A highlight was our Bishop Stephen’s visit, when after presiding over the renewal of our baptismal vows and sprinkling us all with holy water, Bishop gave everyone a box of Smarties!

B4J could not run without your help. We’re including a couple of photos of our kids. More can be seen on our website www.b4j.ca. We are also in the process of sending digital photos to be included on your website, and finding out the logistics of using UCU-approved branding in our communications materials, i.e. acknowledging your support on our website.

Thank you again for your generosity, and may God continue to bless you in this Year of Faith!

Yours in Christ,

Tanya Choly (Camp Director)

Fr. Bohdan Choly (Chaplain)

Olia Dezurevych (Administrative Director)

Instead of being addressed to a single recipient, the camp decided to write to their corporate sponsor as a whole. While this approach may be slightly less personal, they make up for it with ample detail and a specific recap of the campers’ experience— and photos!

5. Direct mail vs. email thank-you letters

Now that you know what to say in your donation thank-you letter, it’s just as important that you use the right communication channels to carry your message across. As new technology is introduced, the way organizations relate with supporters continues to evolve.

Direct mail has been a long-standing tradition of transmitting physical letters from one person to another. However, the rise of the internet and email messaging along with it has led to a new question you need to ask yourself when it comes to donor communications (and specifically thank-you letters!).

Should I use direct mail or email?

email vs direct mail

Here are some of the main advantages of each.

Direct mail

  • More personal: A physical letter tends to carry a more personal appeal to it than an email on a computer screen. This is especially true if your organization takes the time to write and/or sign your thank-you letters by hand!
  • Physical reminder: Many people hold on to letters for days after they’re received, whether that’s sitting on a countertop or clipped to a refrigerator. That way, your letter works as a constant reminder of your organization and the work that you’re doing. Plus, studies show that an individual is more likely to remember something written on paper than on a screen!
  • Can stand out: Especially in the digital age, it can be hard to break through the clutter. That’s why sometimes a nice, well-crafted physical letter can be exactly what you need to get your message to stand out.

Email

  • Cheaper: One of the biggest perks of email is that it’s free to send and receive donor communications. With no need to worry about buying envelopes and stamps, your organization can save that extra money and reinvest it somewhere else.
  • Faster: Instead of waiting several days for your letter to make its way through the post office and mail truck and eventually arrive in the recipient’s mailbox, an email message can transfer to their computer in an instant.
  • Easier: Finally, an email can make it to the donor without you and your team having to spend time printing, folding, and stuffing envelopes. As soon as you’ve typed your message out, all you need to do is hit send!

For most organizations, the best answer involves some sort of combination of the two. For example, you may consider asking each donor to choose their preferred method of communication within the donation form. Then, you’ll have firsthand knowledge about the strategies that work best for each individual. Just be sure that if you ask for a preferred communication method, you honor that and continue building strong, lasting relationships.

Conclusion

There are many ways to write a donation thank-you letter, and no two letters are the same. That’s why it’s a good idea to do your research and decide on a strategy that works best for your organization. After all, the most important part is making sure that donors feel your appreciation and understand their own impact toward the mission.

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