The Best Donor Thank-You Letters to Get You Inspired
There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to donor thank-you letters. Hundreds of nonprofits have led by example, and have shown just how powerful these messages can be when you get them right. When they are executed in a way that truly shows gratitude, they can be tremendously helpful for building organizational loyalty and donor retention.
But, as it turns out, it can actually be quite tricky to convey the right things in a thank-you letter for donations, especially in the short amount of text allotted (you do not want your reader to lose interest!). Luckily, Springly has taken the liberty of compiling some of the most remarkable and proficient examples of donor thank-you letters in the nonprofit world, so you can apply their lessons to your own campaign.
In this article, we are going to cover the following topics:
- Elements of a Great Thank-You Letter for Donations
- 8 Inspiring Thank-You Letter Examples
- Final Thoughts
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Elements of a Great Thank-You Letter for Donations
A donor thank-you letter is the general term for a message of gratitude to the donors, contributors, and volunteers that make your nonprofit what it is. A thank-you letter also has practical effects, like boosting donor retention and giving past donors a sense of honor and responsibility when it comes to your cause.
There are many different kinds of nonprofit thank-you letters, including:
Standard thank-you letters
Volunteer thank-you letters
Holiday thank-you letters
Year-end thank-you letters
Donation request thank-you letters
And many more! For just about every conceivable situation in which an individual or organization provides your nonprofit some contribution or service, there is a way to thank them for it.
Ellie is ready to get started writing her thank you letters!
Below is a list of some of the most important elements you should include in your next round of donor thank-you letters. Later on, we will show you specific examples of real-life donation thank-you letters that perfectly exemplify these elements.
Add a Personalized Introduction
A bland, dispersonal introduction makes your thank-you letter feel like junk mail, even though it is not. Your donors do not give with the expectation of being recognized, but making them feel appreciated and seen sure helps to encourage their loyalty. Recognizing them individually, by using their name and including the amount and nature of their donation, ensures that they will know their donation matters.
Provide a Creative and Unique Twist
While it is not strictly necessary, including a "quirk" or something of interest on the envelope that holds your thank-you letter (and for emails, in the subject line or pre-header text) can boost your open and response rate. Something unique amidst a sea of the same will catch the eye and make someone more inclined to want to view what is inside. Including additional materials in your physical letter or email, like photos or notes from those who have benefited most from your supporter’s contribution, can make the latter feel like their donation was necessary, and that without it, the recipients in question would not have thrived in some way. Show your supporters your nonprofit at work, and they will know the difference their kindness and generosity has made.
For example, if your organization helps families make ends meet by providing food, clothing, children’s toys, school supplies and more when times are hard, ask them if they would care to write a note that will be included in your thank-you letters to your donors. Many will agree, and a handwritten note from a child especially will add a compelling dimension.
Send The Thank-You Letter Promptly
This is one of the basics. It is a fact that donors are more likely to give again if they know their donation has mattered. Sending a thank-you letter promptly (within 48 hours of receiving the funds) cements your organization’s sentiment in their mind.
Coupling this timing with a well-written thank-you letter is a really good way to build a relationship with a donor. It shows a level of professionalism that entices one-time donors to become long-term supporters, because they see how sincere your organization is, and how committed it is to making a difference.
Pro Tip: Nonprofit management software (like Springly!) can take care of the logistics behind sending out prompt thank-you letters for you. Because they automate the emailing of these messages, all you have to do is come up with a meaningful thank-you letter, and it will be sent out every time someone donates online.
Show The Impact of Your Donor’s Funds
This is not just a great way to show off your team’s competence, it also shows the donor a link between one of their actions and a positive result. This idea, called conditioning, is something that happens to everyone every day, and it is one of the most important ideas in behavioral psychology.
Basic science tells us that if your donor sees that the result of his or her donation is a full child’s belly, or a pair of shoes for an individual struggling with housing, he or she is far more likely to give again.
Use Donor-Centric Language
Donor-centric language is verbiage that relates everything in your thank-you letter to your donor. It is important to mention your organization in your letter, but the bulk of the focus should be on the benefactor: what they did, how it helps, and what they can do next. Here are some examples of donor-centric language:
"With your help, the Amazon is cleaner than it was in XXX."
"Your donation was directly able to feed XXX families."
"Next year, we hope you join us in raising even more money for XXX"
Using language like this subconsciously associates your donor with your organization, making it easier for you to form long-term partnerships with them. Long-term partnerships mean more recurring donations, a foundational fundraising concept for all nonprofits.
This is actually good advice for any kind of communication, but it is especially helpful when demonstrating in your thank-you letter just how much your donor has aided your organization’s mission.
It is fairly common knowledge that people absorb information faster, and retain it more often, when it is displayed in a graph alongside supporting text. Presenting the data behind some major impact you have made in the lives of those your organization aims to touch will only solidify what has been communicated in the text of your thank-you letter. It will exhibit clear and concrete information to back your claims.
Oliver is doing his best to utilize some visuals!
Including a photo as well, for example of a group of volunteers hard at work, can also show supporters how expansive, inclusive, joyous and good-hearted the community that surrounds your organization is. It will show them how incessantly the individuals who love and support your nonprofit are willing to work to make your humanitarian vision a reality.
A story helps to humanize your thank-you letter and show your donor the real-life side of what happens when they support your cause. This can include anything from walking through the steps of how your nonprofit aids others to cleaning up a local river to telling the story of a family that was helped by your organization and, by extension, the donor.
Stories can be very deep, symbolic, and profound. They can tell the tale of life, vision, and purpose brought into suffering, thereby alleviating it, and imbuing it with meaning. They can also tell the story of selflessness, of a group of people coming together to radically shift the tide of struggle in someone’s life (or something’s life - like the ocean, which may not be alive in a traditional sense, but is nonetheless a vital entity unto itself, and not to mention home to many subsistent creatures).
With the right angle, your story can show your supporter that your nonprofit has a valuable place in the world, and therefore is worthy of their loyalty. It will remind them of just why they donated in the first place, and why they should continue to do so - to effect real, deep-seated change.
Pro Tip: There are many ways to tell a story. When coming up with one that accurately conveys the enormity of the work your organization does, ask yourself and your team these questions: What was life like for the people/animals (or entity) we have aided before this organization began doing its work? Why does this matter? Brainstorming the message, overarching theme or philosophy you intend to convey through your story may allow its more minute details to fall easily into place once you begin writing.
Include a Call-To-Action
A call-to-action, or CTA, instructs your donor to do something upon completing their reading. In a thank-you letter, this can be anything from subscribing to a newsletter to donating again or setting up a recurring donation.
Your call-to-action should be placed twice within your thank-you letter:
First, in the body
Second, as a large button (in an email) or in stand-alone form (in a physical letter)
They should be concise and efficient in gaining donations, but not pushy. They should instead welcome the donor to complete the action on their own accord.
Now that we know some thank-you letter writing best practices, it is time to check out some real-world examples that have used them.
8 Inspiring Thank-You Letter Examples
Water.org: Telling a Story
In Water.org’s thank-you letters to donors, they tell the story of Anisa, a 13-year-old girl who had to dedicate more time to finding clean water than to her school work.
Through donations received from their generous contributors, her family was able to get water and a toilet at home. This is a perfect example of telling a story that highlights the impact of donations.
Toronto Cat Rescue: Sharing Statistics to Show The Impact
Toronto Cat Rescue thanks its donors by highlighting, in the first paragraph, that donations like the one they are sending the letter for have helped rescue 188 cats over the course of just one month.
Sharing statistics grounds the letter in real-world effect. By simply informing your donor of what you can do with their donation, you are not just giving them a sense of pride. You are incentivizing them to give again.
ChildFocus: Adding a Unique Twist
ChildFocus’s thank-you letters are not written by the organization. They are not even written by an adult at the organization. They are written by the very child who benefited from a given donor’s money or gift.
In one example, a child writes to a donor to thank them for donated tickets to a Reds game. The child expands on how much fun they had with their friends, which is guaranteed to warm the heart of the donor.
Save The Children: Using Donor-Centric Language
Save The Children’s thank-you letters definitely tell a story, but they also serve as a great example of donor-centric language. Here is an excerpt from one of them:
"In 2019, YOU helped educate children… On behalf of all the children whose lives you changed, thank you… Imagine how many more lives like Rani’s [a beneficiary’s] can be saved with your help."
Source: Save the Children
Using this language imbues the donor with a sense of responsibility and loyalty to your cause.
World Food Programme: Utilizing a Clear CTA
World Food Programme’s thank-you letters often come in waves, and one of them is a simple and concise message about continuing to donate.
It reads "Millions are on the brink of starvation in what is the world’s most acute humanitarian crisis." Underneath that is a red button with the words "Donate Now".
Source: World Food Programme
No fluff or frills, just a sense of urgency and a call to action. Sometimes, that is all you need.
PETA: Promptly Timing Your Thank-You Letters
PETA uses a nonprofit management software to automatically issue personalized thank-you letters immediately to those who donate. By offering their donors recognition for their generosity in such a short time frame, PETA’s donors know that their gifts, now and later, are appreciated.
The letters also contain information about the use of funds that help to highlight that what can sometimes feel like a one-sided transaction is having an impact on so many animals.
Acumen: Using Visuals
Acumen’s thank-you letters for donations consist of a large banner right at the top bearing one of their slogans: An innovation has the power to fight poverty. This visual serves to embed that idea into the minds of their donors.
After seeing the slogan enough times, the donor is truly converted to the philosophy of Acumen and its sure supporters, making them more likely to choose Acumen as their primary charity of choice.
Donors obviously do not give to your cause out of some expectation of being recognized for how great they are, but making sure they know you notice them is actually a very important part of building a strong community, as well as boosting donor retention rate.
By employing the best practices above and following the examples, your next round of thank-you letters might just result in a tick up of recurring donations and overall support.
Just one last thing: be sure to use a nonprofit management software (like Springly!) to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of donation thank-you letters!
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💡 What are the elements of a great donor thank you letter?
A great thank you letter, above all else, is genuine. But it also includes personalization, a call-to-action, and a unique twist to make it stand out and be more effective. Find out more.
🔑 Why is it important to write a thank you letter to your donors?
Thank you letters are common courtesy, but they also have the practical benefit of increasing donor retention and building a base of recurring donation. Find out more.
📝 How do you write a thank you letter to your donors?
Start with a personalized intro, and then express gratitude to your donor. Explain the practical impact their money had on your cause and why it is important for donors like them to continue their support. Finally, wrap it up with a call-to-action to encourage donating again or on a recurring basis. Find out more.