The Ultimate Guide To Writing Donation Thank You Letters
At some point, most of us in the nonprofit world will need to write a thank you letter for a donation. Whether you are expressing gratitude for an in-kind or monetary contribution, there are concrete practices you should stick to that will ensure your donation letter conveys everything you want it to.
Writing a thank you letter for donations is not just about expressing your gratitude; it can help boost your donor retention as well, and therefore garner further support. Let’s take a look at the best practices for donation letters so you can knock your next one out of the park.
Here is what we will cover in this guide:
- What is a Donation Thank You Letter
- Why Are Donation Thank You Letters Important?
- Types of Donation Letters
- How To Structure a Thank You Letter for Donations
- How to Write a Personalized Thank You Letter for Donation?
- Paper or Digital, What Is The Best Format for a Thank You Letter?
- One Good Example of A Donation Thank You Letter
- Final Thoughts
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What is a Donation Thank You Letter
A thank you letter for a donation is an expression of gratitude given to someone after they donate to a charitable cause. It usually takes the form of an email or a letter, and is only about 3 to 4 paragraphs long.
You should send a thank you letter after receiving any kind of donation. It is a good idea to incorporate thank you letters into your strategy, for any kind of campaign, including those you have written appeals for - appeals like the End of Year Donation Letter, Fundraising Appeal Letter, In-Kind Donation Letter, and standard Donation Request letter.
Why Are Donation Thank You Letters Important?
Everyone knows that it is meaningful to send a donation letter after receiving a donation. It is just good manners. But there are other, more subtle reasons why they are crucial to your organization’s best practices. For example:
Thank You Letters Keep Track of Donations
This is important because it allows fundraisers to see which donors have donated and how much they have given. Imperative for bookkeeping and in order to stay in compliance with 501(c)3 donation rules, tracking your donations is something your nonprofit should definitely be doing right.
It is vital - and far more efficient - to use nonprofit management software (like Springly) in order to help your treasurer keep everything straight. Ultimately, it can help you keep track of who to send donation thank you letters to. This software automatically pulls data from your payment platforms, including the amount, donor name, and date associated with every purchase. The software then compiles this information into an easy-to-read interface.
Oliver is having a good think on the importance of thank you letters.
Cash donations require a bit more handiwork, but once they are inputted into the system, Springly takes care of the rest. For that, sending a thank you letter simultaneously forces you to have a record of the donation, and expresses gratitude for your donor. These are both very important parts of running a successful nonprofit.
Thank You Letters Can Be Used As Follow-Ups
There are a number of situations in which thank you letters can be very effective follow-ups.
The first is if someone has pledged their support verbally and has not yet made their donation. Sending them a thank you note for their pledge can be that gentle reminder that they still have yet to contribute.
Second, sending thank you letters for donations that were actually made increases the likelihood that you will make recurring donors out of first-time donors. This is extremely important for a nonprofit, since it builds a stream of more reliable, more consistent income.
Pro Tip: Timing matters, so do not wait too long before sending your thank you letter. The sooner you do, the better because it is still fresh in your donor’s mind.
Types of Donation Letters
Just like there are several different types of donations, there are several different types of donation thank you letters. Each contains subtle differences.
Single Donation Thank You Letter
A one-time donation thank you letter is a great way to acknowledge and thank the donor for their support. This letter should be sent out shortly after receiving their gift and should include:
A brief description of the donation and its impact
An explanation of how you plan to use this money, or a statement about how it will have an impact on future donations (e.g., "We hope this inspires others to give generously!")
A reminder that if they would like more information about how their gift helped, they can always get in touch with you directly (e.g., "If there is anything else we can do to help make sure your contribution has maximum impact, please do not hesitate to reach out! Thank you again!")
Recurring Donation Thank You Letter
Because your recurring donors give regularly, they should not receive a thank you after every donation - especially if they are giving frequently, like weekly or monthly - as it can overwhelm them. It is important to time each thank you letter so that it shows a measurable and meaningful level of gratitude without being too overbearing or intrusive. A good rule of thumb is to thank your recurring donors in a sincere and special way every quarter of a year or so.
Convey in your thank you letter how much your recurring donor’s gift means to you and how important their continued support is to the growth of your organization, and thus to the improvement of your beneficiaries’ livelihood. A recurring donor thank you letter can also include other requests for donations or help with fundraising events. It can encourage them to remain onboard, so you do not have to utilize these Lapsed Donor Letter Examples!
Be sure each thank you letter is different, so it is more personal and purposeful.
Large Donation Thank You Letter
If you have received a donation from a donor whose gift is considered 'large' for your organization (e.g. above $,1000) or more, you will want to write a special thank you letter to acknowledge how significant that contribution was and how much you appreciate their choice to give their money to your charity.
A donation of this size shows that they believe in what your organization does and want to help support it as much as possible.
If your organization is lucky enough to receive larger donations like this one, send out letters thanking the donor for giving so generously; it has truly made a world of a difference to your cause.
In-Kind Donation Thank You Letter
An in-kind donation is a gift that you receive from a donor that does not require cash. Examples include clothing donations, food donations, furniture donations, and more. You can use this type of letter to thank your donors for their in-kind gifts.
In a business letter format, the main body contains all of the information about the donor's gift and how you plan to use it.
Corporate Sponsorship Thank You Letter
Thank you letters for corporate sponsorships should be used to thank the sponsor for their support, but also to let them know how their donation will be used. You can also use this letter to let them know what your organization does and why it is important. Finally, mention how they can continue to support your organization by either making another donation or simply referring others who may want to donate as well.
How To Structure a Thank You Letter for Donations
This is where you outline your gratitude for the donation and thank your supporter for their generosity. Your introduction to your thank you letter is where you focus your reader’s attention on the purpose of the letter. Your donors genuinely care for your cause, but they also have busy daily lives.
They may not actively recall their last donation, so the intro is the perfect place to remind them. Thank them for their donation, and mention the specific amount, date, and the name of your organization.
Matt is writing up a thank you letter template right now!
This primes their attention for the rest of the letter, where you can do a whole lot of good.
This is where you describe how your supporter’s donation will be used, such as to pay off medical bills for a child with cancer or buy a new car for a family affected by a hurricane. The body of your thank you letter, essentially, is where you trigger an emotional response. This is the key to generating more support for your cause and developing a base of recurring donors.
Your donors give because they want to see your mission succeed. Showing them that their donations help in doing so creates a real-world emotional response that can encourage them to donate more.
Science backs this up, too. Central to much of human behavior is the duality of actions and rewards. Your donors give out of the kindness of their hearts, but they also get a "reward" in the form of an increased sense of purpose as well as the "warm fuzzies".
Showing your donors the impact that their donation has had enhances this rewarding feeling, and turns it into something tangible. As we all know, rewarding an action can create more action - this is called positive reinforcement. In this way, showing the result of a donation can encourage further donations.
Close with a statement of appreciation, followed by any additional information on how your supporters can contact you if they have questions or concerns about the project. It is also a good idea in your closing, or in your post-script, to mention the need for ongoing funds, as well as easy steps for how further donations can be made. If you have properly structured the rest of your letter, this can really boost your donor retention.
Signature Line and Attached Donation Receipt
Your full name, phone number, and email address should be listed at the bottom of this letter so that if your donor needs more information about your organization's mission, they will not have too much trouble locating it.
You should (and in most cases, must) also attach your donor's donation receipt, so they can write off their donation amount on their taxes. Current rules require any donation larger than $250 to be reciprocated with a receipt.
How to Write a Personalized Thank You Letter for A Donation?
You may have the best of intentions when sending out thank you letters, but if your letter is not personalized or customized in any way, it can be easily overlooked by those who received it.
If you want to maximize your efficiency and make sure that each recipient feels valued, consider creating your own personalized thank you letter template that includes personal details about each person contributing to your cause.
Even better, write each one individually for true personalization.
This will help ensure that everyone knows how much their contributions mean in terms of helping others. Like these holiday appeal letters fundraising samples, bring your beneficiaries to life with a variety of stories and visuals, perhaps those that you know will impact each of your donors the most! Here are some fast and effective tips for personalizing a donation thank you letter.
Use the Donor's Name
No room for "dear valued donor" language here. Nothing disengages a reader more than being addressed in an obviously impersonal way. Use their name and refer to them as you would a friend.
For example, address them by name, and then reference how much their last donation helped you achieve a specific goal. Or if you can, tell an anecdote that will stir up some emotion in them, perhaps one that alludes to the last time they volunteered or contributed to the organization in some way
Mention the Specific Donation Amount
This shows your reader that you have been paying attention and individually appreciate their donation. Ironically, though this is a way to personalize the letter, it can be done automatically with nonprofit management software.
For Special Donors, Recall More Detailed Specifics
If you have a large donor or benefactor, it might be worth it to recall something specific you know about them or have spoken to them about. Express your congratulations for their child getting into college, or ask about their new car.
This is a good way to show extra appreciation, but it also serves to form a closer relationship with larger donors.
Personalized thank you letters are more likely to be shared on social media, so be sure to add your branding to the letterhead.
Paper or Digital, What Is The Best Format for a Thank You Letter?
While there are best practices for donation letters, there is a little flexibility when it comes to the format.
Paper? Digital? Marie is thinking on it intently!
In most cases, an email is enough to thank donors for their gifts and let them know what impact their money or time had as well.
However, if you want to make your donors feel extra special, consider sending a handwritten card in addition to an email. There are two ways you can do this:
Sending a personalized handwritten card with signatures from everyone on the team at your organization. This makes each donor feel like they have been personally thanked by the whole team at your organization!
Sending individualized notes to each donor from one person. This way, every donor gets a personal note from someone they know at least a little well (or someone they might recognize from an event or cause).
Pro Tip: No matter the media you choose, make sure the design is simple, elegant and formal enough to touch your donor. It is supposed to look personal and of high quality, so do not spend too much time working on an overly sophisticated design!
One Good Example of A Donation Thank You Letter
To give you an idea of what a good thank you letter should look like, here is one example:
"Dear Mr. Smith/Ms. Jones,
Thank you for your donation of $100 to the Example Post-Hurricane Re-Homing Nonprofit. Your generosity changed lives.
With your help, three families affected by Hurricane Irma have been successfully rehomed. Your continued support gives healthier, more stable lives to the children of these families.
Attached to this letter is a picture of the Johnson family in front of their new home in Dallas, as well as your tax receipt for your records and deduction.
[Name and Signature]
P.S. In the coming months, we will be working on building homes for five more families. If you would like to continue your support for them, you can donate here."
If you are sending a physical letter, the "donate here" call-to-action can be a QR code that goes to your donation page. In an email, it can be a button.
Why This Thank You Letter Works:
It is extremely short and sweet
It does not take up much time or space on paper or screen. This makes it easy for donors to read through quickly, giving them more time to digest your message without having too many things going through their mind at once (which can be overwhelming).
It provokes an emotional response
It highlights the good that the money did, and includes a picture to cement it in the reader’s mind. This is key for building a recurring donor base.
It is personalized.
It addresses the donor by name and mentions their specific amount. This brings the donation back into their active memory and shows that your organization cares enough, and is effective enough, to remember the donor specifically.
It offers the chance for a recurring donation.
It is not begging and does not sound ungrateful, but it asks about the possibility of another donation. This can be massively effective for boosting donor retention. Be sure to include this, at the very least, in your postscript section - because it is one of the last things your supporter will read, it will stick in their mind.
So, now that you know what a thank you letter is, how it should be structured and why It is so important for your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, you can start writing the best thank you letters.
In short, always speak from the heart. Mention how their contribution helps make the world a better place. And finally, suggest the idea of a recurring donation.
If you follow the steps above, you will not only show your amazing donors that you truly appreciate them, but you can set your organization up for recurring donations and even more success in the future.
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💡Why are thank-you letters for donations important?
Thank you letters for donations show your donors that you care and that their money or contribution makes a real difference. Reinforcing this feeling can boost donor retention in your nonprofit. Find out more.
🔑 How to create an efficient letter?
Personalize each one with the donors name and donation amount. Expand on how their generosity has changed the world, and include specific examples of how the money was used. Find out more.
📝 Are thank-you letters better in digital or paper format?
Digital letters or emails are easier to automate and can include links, but a paper letter reads more formally and can make a donor feel very special. In general, if you need quantity, go with an email. If you need quality, go with a letter. Find out more.