How to Write a Year-End Donation Thank You Letter That Retains Your Donors
After the rush of the holiday giving season, it is easy to eagerly move forward with next year’s initiatives: You have just raised a bunch of funds and your organization is well-positioned for the coming months. You are at the top of your game, and there is a new slew of projects to get started on.
But before your nonprofit moves on from last year’s activities, there is one more crucial step you must take: writing year-end thank you letters for the donations you just received from donors.
In this article, we will take a closer look at:
- What is a Year-End Thank You Letter and When Is It Sent?
- Why The Year-End Thank You Letter Is So Important
- 5 Year-End Thank You Letter Best Practices
- Year-End Thank You Letter Examples
- Final Thoughts
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What is a Year-End Thank You Letter and When Is It Sent?
A year-end thank you letter is not just a bland, robotic email that gets buried in your donors’ inboxes. It is a powerful tool that ensures your donors know they are appreciated.
A year-end donation letter is sent to each person or organization that contributed to your cause over the last year. No matter how big or small the donation, each donor deserves one.
Beyond that, sending thank you letters for donations is actually a great way to increase donor retention, which we will touch on later.
You should send out year-end donor thank you letters at the very end of the year, in the last week of December. These letters communicate that although some time has likely gone by since you originally received your supporters’ donations (barring those that just occurred within the last month or so), you still remember their generosity, and it is meaningful to you.
It is worth noting that, even though you are sending a thank you letter at the end of the year, you should still send one, preferably in email format, within 48 hours of receiving any donation throughout the year. People like to be recognized for their generosity, and doing so right away makes it more likely that they will donate again.
There are two types of year-end thank you letters:
- Per Donor or Specialized Thank You Letters
Per donor thank you letters are the ones we are addressing in this article. They are sent to each donor, and typically include a summary of any contributions they made over the course of the year. They indicate the impact your donor has had on furthering your cause, and along the same lines, how successful your organization has been.
- Donor Pool or Generalized Thank You Letters
A donor pool thank you letter goes out to all donors, and contains information about how much was raised in total that year and outlines the projects that were accomplished with those funds.
Note that year-end thank you letters do not necessarily have to go only to those who contributed money. They can go to in-kind donors as well as people who simply showed up to support your events as well.
But why is it important to send year-end thank you letters? What is wrong with just sending them out at the time the donation is made?
Why The Year-End Thank You Letter Is So Important
The first reason why it is so important to send year-end thank you letters to your donors and supporters is that they truly deserve it. Their time, attention, and money help your nonprofit achieve far more than what is possible on your own.
Fostering that sense of community is priority number one for sending donation thank you letters. But there are other, more tangible reasons why you should send them too.
Year-End Thank You Letters Boost Retention
Your donors give out of the kindness of their hearts, but that does not mean they do not appreciate being recognized for their efforts. Showing appreciation is a time-tested way to boost donor retention, because it tells your donors that you notice them and that their money is genuinely aiding your cause.
13% of donors who only give to an organization once do so because no one ever thanked them for their contribution. At this point only a small fraction of nonprofits do not send thank you letters, and clearly for good reason: they turn first-time donors into long-term supporters.
Year-End Thank You Letters Can Be Turned Into a Reminder to Give Again
When someone supports your cause, it is because they want to improve the world. Almost every donor knows that this means continued support, since a one-time donation cannot fix a recurring societal or environmental problem entirely.
The problem is that we all have very busy professional and personal lives, and sometimes things just slip the mind. Chances are, a large percentage of your donor pool wants to donate again - they simply need a little reminder of your mission and cause.
Your year-end thank you letter can show your donors how much their contribution helped, but it can also remind them that more donations are always welcome.
An example of how to do this is by adding a post-script, or P.S., at the bottom of your year-end thank you letter. Writing something like, "P.S. More donations are always helpful in our fight against [your cause]" is a very easy way to get a few more donations out of a campaign. Specifically for a year-end letter, you can describe your projects for next year and ask for funds for those as well.
Again, the primary point of a year-end thank you letter is showing appreciation, so do not get too caught up in this aspect.
Year-End Thank You Letters Build and Nurture Relationships
Recurring donations can build a stable foundation for your nonprofit by giving you consistent income in the long term. The best way to create recurring donors is to show past donors that they are not just piggy banks. They are an active part of the community you have built.
To do this, use heartfelt wording that expands on the impact their sentiment has on your cause. Instead of saying:
"Your donation goes to feeding children in poorer countries."
"Your generosity and support offer hope to hungry bellies all over the world."
This demonstrates that your organization is merely a vehicle for this sentiment to reach those who need it. When a donor sees that others recognize his or her good deeds, it gives them a sense of responsibility which pushes them to continue contributing.
Next, we will go over some of the best thank you letter tips which will help you draft one that not only conveys your appreciation, but also helps you build stronger donor relations.
5 Year-End Thank You Letter Best Practices
Here are some actionable tips for creating a year-end thank you letter that is guaranteed to put a smile on your donors' faces.
1.) Be Specific
Being specific in the amount, nature, and timing of a donation shows the donor that you have been paying attention, that you remember them and their generosity. Of course, realistically, very few people have a memory good enough to remember the exact details of every donation made to them, so it is important to keep complete and accurate records of all gifts received throughout the year.
Pro Tip: Displaying the sentiment that you remember each and every gift, however, is possible and very important. Tell donors exactly what their funds were used for, and touch on the campaign their donation was a part of. This jogs their memory and gets them excited for your next campaign.
2.) Remind Donors of Your Mission
Your donor most likely donated in the first place because they support your mission. And, as mentioned earlier, most donors are of the understanding that two donations help more than one.
Therefore, provided they have not gone Cruella DeVille on you (or, more likely, some other more understandable reason is preventing them from giving money), they are very likely to want to donate again.
All you have to do is remind them why they did in the past.
3.) Highlight The Impact
One problem many donors have when considering whether or not to give again is that they cannot directly see what their money has gone. That is fair: you cannot exactly film their cash or check moving through your organization, and into the hands of the intended recipient.
You can, however, explain in your year-end thank you letter that that is exactly what happened. You can also use visuals, in the form of photos and videos, to bolster the stories you tell. Smiling beneficiaries, staff members, and the volunteers who make everything your organization does possible can do wonders to communicate the sincerity of your efforts. When your donor sees that their contribution helped to fulfill one of your organization’s goals, it has the same effect as observing progress made in the gym: it motivates. Seeing a positive result arise from an action incentivizes the human brain to do more of that action.
That is the effect you want to maximize when it comes to donations.
4.) Personalize The Content
It is very good form to address the recipient of any letter by name, but this reigns especially true when it comes to thank you letters. You can use templates, but be sure they allow for enough personalization so that you can communicate your gratitude as effectively and sincerely as possible.
Sure, it is nice to be recognized for a donation, but the effect is somewhat diminished if the letter starts with "to whom it may concern" or "dear valued donor."
Instead, insert their name in its salutation and use a lot of "you" language. Here is an example:
"Hey, Mike! We just wanted to reach out and let you know that your $25 in donations earlier this year helped provide 3 free meals for undernourished children who had no other options. Thank you so much for your generosity and continued support in ending child hunger all over the world! Yours truly, John Smith from The End Child Hunger Example Organization"
This brings the donor’s attention and conscious mind into your thank you letter, making it more likely for them to recall your organization the next time a campaign email lands in their inbox.
5.) Be Clear and Concise
Your thank you letter is not where you describe your organization in its entirety and outlay the grand scale of your cause. That would have been accomplished in whatever fundraising activity led the donor to give in the first place.
A quick reminder of the organization’s name, the fundraising campaign the donor was a part of, and your overall cause should be enough for your donor to remember everything they thought and felt when donating the last time: concern for the cause, pride in themselves for doing a good deed, and trust in your team.
Now that we have all of the information needed to write a fantastic year-end thank you letter for donations, let’s check out a few examples that really exemplify the finer points.
Year-End Thank You Letter Examples
Showing Statistics In Your Year-End Thank You Letter: The Dear Jack Foundation
The Dear Jack Foundation, which serves cancer patients, survivors, as well as their families, sent a year-end thank you letter that disclosed to donors how many patients and families were supported over the course of the year thanks to donations.
They made it clear that it is the donors, not just the organization, that makes it all possible.
Setting Goals for the Future In Your Year-End Thank You Letter: Water4
Water 4’s year-end thank you letter, which was actually a video, not only displayed graphs and charts showing the effect the last year of fundraising had, but it also gave donors a new goal for the organization: to achieve 30% more next year than they did this year.
Nothing fires up your passionate supporters more than knowing they made progress while also pushing themselves to do more.
Magnifying Emotional Impact in Your Year-End Thank You Letter: Charity:Water
Charity:Water’s year-end thank you letter was a brilliant display of using emotional gratification to boost donor retention.
The top of the letter read "YOU DID IT!", followed by a picture of an undoubtedly extremely grateful beneficiary. The combination of these two elements communicates one very strong message to past donors: their money made a difference.
Keeping Your Year-End Thank You Letter Concise: St. Jude Children’s Hospital
St. Jude is known in the nonprofit realm for having an amazing content pipeline. As an example, one part of a former thank you letter campaign was a very short email, reading only "Your generosity makes a difference" along with two stats about the last year: $2 million raised and over 3,000 families helped.
Just below that was the final element of the email: a large red button that says "make another donation". Concise, effective, and with a stand-out CTA. Sometimes that is all you need.
Appreciating Volunteers in Your Year-End Thank You Letter: buildOn
BuildOn’s year-end thank you highlighted its amazing volunteers, who committed a total of over 1.4 million hours of work over the last year. Doing this shows donors that the organization has the power to affect real change, and it convinces would-be volunteers to step up next year!
A year-end thank you letter is a critical component of your fundraising strategy, despite coming after the year’s donations.
Writing one, and writing it effectively, can actually boost donor recognition by displaying, one final time, your organization’s gratitude to your supporters, as well as any progress you have made as a result of their generous contribution.
When writing a year-end thank you letter to donors, be sure to keep it concise and personalize the content so it feels more special and heartfelt. Include statistics about the success of the past year as well as your goals for next year.
By doing this, you will fire up donors and contributors for next year, so you can continue to grow your impact and make the world a better place!
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💡Why is a year end donation thank you letter so important?
A year-end donation thank you letter is important not only because your donors deserve it, but because it can also have practical effects like boosting donor retention and creating a stronger sense of community. Find out more.
🔑 How do you write a year end donation thank you letter?
Start by personally thanking your donor, reminding them of your organization and the specific amount of their donation. Then, speak on how their funds helped your cause, and the plans to continue your good work into the future. Find out more.
📝 What to say in a thank you letter for a donation?
Be sure to focus on the cause, not your organization. Do not recount everything you said to the donor during the initial fundraiser activity. Instead, talk about results and the effectiveness of your team thanks to the funds that were raised. Find out more.