In 2020, nonprofits retained about 34% of their 2019 donors. Unfortunately, this stat means that nearly two-thirds of donors don’t give again after their first donation! 

However, by showing your donors you appreciate them, you can increase your donor retention rate and raise more money. This is why thank yous are so important to your overall fundraising strategy.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to write the perfect thank you message for donors. Here is, in full, what we’ll cover:

Why Thanking Donors Is Important

Saying “thank you” is a vital piece of donor stewardship, and could be the difference between losing a donor and establishing a long-lasting relationship. 

80% of donors who don’t make a second donation say that a thank you would’ve convinced them to donate again. Additionally, the cost of acquiring new donors can easily outweigh the initial value of a new donor by 50% to 100%. So, recapturing first-time donors with an effective thank you is vital to an efficient fund development strategy.

If you can introduce a culture of thanking donors into your everyday workflows, you’ll be well on your way to increasing donor retention.

Download FREE Thank You Letter Templates

Saying “thank you” is a vital part of a nonprofit fundraising strategy. Use these templates to craft general, campaign, and impact-focussed thank you messages.

Best Practices for Writing the Perfect Thank You Message for Donors

Every donor is different and may require a different approach, but the best practices listed below can take any thank you message to the next level.

1. Be timely

Make sure to send your thank you promptly; within a week of a donation is ideal timing. But,  don’t send a thank you immediately following a donation because it’ll seem automated and inauthentic. Instead, follow up with their receipt. 

Speaking of timing, why wait until a donation has come in to thank a donor? 

Donors support you even when they aren’t giving you money: they share your social media posts, mention you to colleagues, or even wear your branded gear. Their support is continuous, so don’t limit yourself to thank yous only following a donation. 

Pro tip: Thank donors year-round with shout-outs on social media, in newsletters, or by email.

2. Be authentic

Thank yous shouldn’t come across as superficial. Donors are integral to your organization’s success so let this authenticity and genuine gratitude shine through in your thank you messages.

One way to do this is to tailor your message to each donor. You may not be able to handwrite a novel to everyone but at the very least, include their name in your message. If your email marketing software is connected to your donor management system, you can even do this automatically, which is integral at scale. 

Looking for some guidance on how to automatically add personalized details to your donor emails? Check out this article by Keela. 

Also, for donors you want to write to individually, add details about their giving history or their connection to your cause. Use your donor management system to track your interactions with donors so that when it comes time to write your message, you have the information you need at your fingertips.

3. Share impact

It’s important to include the impact a donor has created in a thank you message. This helps a donor understand where their money is going and its value to beneficiaries.

The best way to share impact is by telling a story and using data to back it up. For example, you could write, “Your $100 donation provided Christmas dinner for four families this year”. 

Then, connect this data point to a narrative they can empathize with. For example, you could say, “One of those families was the Smith family, who fell on hard times this year and have been supported by our organization.” 

The numbers provide the evidence, but the story provides the essential human connection.

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4. Don’t be afraid to get emotional

While you don’t want to make your message too wordy, don’t be afraid to elicit emotion in your message. For many people, a donation is much more than a financial transfer – it’s a decision they make with their heart as well as their wallet. So, it’s suitable to match this emotion in your thank you message.

One way to elicit emotion is by adding visuals where appropriate. A picture speaks a thousand words, which will help keep your message brief and to the point. Check out GoFundMe’s best practices for using fundraising pictures to get started with visuals.

5. Don’t ask for money

We recommend that you don’t ask for more money in your thank you message. It pulls the focus away from the gratitude of your message and makes it seem like you have ulterior motives for reaching out. 

Keep your “thank you for the donation” note limited to showing gratitude and reach out at a later time to make another ask. Also, showing authentic appreciation following a donation will help you when you make an ask down the road.

6. Send from an actual person

No matter what form your thank you message takes, it should come from a person and not your organization. For example, research from Pinpointe marketing found that using a specific person’s name – opposed to an organization’s name – can increase open rates by 35%!

Also, signing off from the organization makes the message seem generic and less personal. 

Think about who would be the most appropriate person to send messages of thanks from, and ask them if they’re ok with being the sender.

7. Use donor-centered language

What you say is just as important as how you say it. When you frame a message around the individual, it makes it much more personal. 

Don’t say, “We use donations to provide critical support to an animal hospital”. Instead, you should say, “Your donation has helped fund the XYZ Animal Hospital in your community. We couldn’t provide this critical support without your monthly gift!” 

One area in which donor-centered language really packs a punch is email subject lines. In fact, personalized subject lines can increase your open rates by up to 50%! So try using donor-centered language in your next subject line.

A “Thank You” For Every Type Of Donor

How to thank major donors

Every donor deserves a thank you, but when someone makes a major gift, they require an extra-special thank you. 

Soliciting major gifts often requires building a relationship with donors over a few years. So, you’ll likely know your major donors better than other donors. This allows you to be even more personal with your thank you than you otherwise could be. 

You could thank major donors with a phone call to start. You may want to follow this up with a plaque or other physical reminder of their donation. A donor appreciation event such as a dinner or party can also help major donors feel the impact of their donation and meet others in the community. 

Not sure where to start when planning a donor appreciation event? Check out these great tips for hosting an exclusive and memorable event. 

Also, make sure to tailor a major donor thank you to something that suits that donor and makes them feel appreciated. For example, a very private donor may not want a surprise plaque above the door of your office.

How to thank monthly donors

When a donor keeps coming back to your organization month after month, it means they’re deeply aligned with your cause and committed to your organization’s mission. Your thank you should reflect this level of commitment. 

A great way to thank monthly donors is by inviting them to see the impact of their donations. For example, you could ask them to come for a site tour or even to volunteer for a day. Giving monthly donors a first-hand experience and thanking them in person will show them how much they’re appreciated. 

Check out Donor By Design Group’s blog to learn how to curate a great donor site visit.

How to thank campaign donors

Donors who give as a part of a fundraising campaign are unique because they’re all giving to help your organization reach a specific goal. This means that your thank you message should be specific and report on the campaign’s outcome.

Thank campaign donors by reporting on campaign outcomes and impact. They’ll want to know if the campaign reached its goal, how their money will be used, and the progress of the project they’re funding. 

Additionally, tag these donors on social media to allow them to show their friends what they’ve been a part of.

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Use this tool to help you predict how much you’ll raise from your prospects. This tool works for campaigns, annual revenue estimates, or fundraising events!

How to thank micro donors

Don’t discount donors who give small gifts! Every gift counts, and a quick thank you will ensure they give again. A micro donor today could become a major donor tomorrow. 

Because you’ll likely have more micro donors than other donors, you’ll want to thank them in a way that’s scalable while still being sincere. 

It’s not practical to send a handwritten note every time you receive a micro-donation. However, there are still ways to personalize automated emails. For example, you can segment donors based on the program they donate to so they receive a thank you message tailored to their interest area. 

All of the best practices we discussed above also apply to an automated message so you can make it more sincere.

How to thank donors at risk of lapsing

Remember how we discussed the importance of donor retention? Well, when a donor hasn’t donated in a long time – and is at risk of churning – they may need some extra attention. Sending them a thank you note for all of their support can be a great way to re-engage them

You could get their attention by tagging them on social media in a post thanking donors. Alternatively, you could send them an email asking for input on the organization, which shows that you value their non-monetary contributions as well. These strategies make donors feel connected to your community and remind them of the important role they play within your organization.

Last, check out this guide on using social media in your fundraising strategy to gain helpful insights into engaging donors.

How to thank new donors

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. A first donation experience should leave a donor feeling welcome and appreciated. You can achieve this by following up their donation with a thank you note and a “welcome to the donor community”.

If you start things off on the right foot, it’s easier to develop a long-term relationship. A great way to express gratitude is by sending a thank you video. This could include some of the people in the program they’re supporting, outline their generous donation’s impact, or be a brief thanks from your CEO. 

It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but a video will make first-time donors feel extra special and connected to your organization.

They say it takes a village to raise a nonprofit, right? Well, your donors are your village, and you couldn’t do your work without them. So, show your donors how valuable they are by thanking them consistently and authentically. 

No matter how big or small, there’s an appropriate thank you for every donor. Hopefully, the best practices outlined in this article will help you curate the right thank you for your donors. 

Do you have any creative ways to thank donors? We would love to hear about them!

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