As a non-profit organization, a thank you letter is one of the first touch points a donor receives after making a gift to your organization. Much like a first impression, the words in that letter matter. This thank you letter can be the gateway to building a long lasting relationship between the donor and your cause. Learning how to write a donor thank you letter is a skill all fundraising professionals need.
Are you curious about how to write an impactful thank you letter to your donor? In this post you’ll find 10 tips for writing an impressive donor thank you letter plus some great nonprofit thank you letter examples.
Tip #1 Personalize as much as possible
There’s nothing worse than reading something that feels like it has been mass mailed, and it’s probably one of the quicker ways to turn your reader off. Especially when writing a donor thank you letter, it is important to personalize it as much as possible to build rapport with the contributor. This includes using their name in the salutation (or greeting) of the letter and including their gift amount.
Tip #2 Lead with a story when you write a donor thank you letter
How many donor thank you letters have you read that started with “On behalf of. . .” or “Thank you for your recent gift. . . “? Probably far too many letters, I’m going to guess. If you want your letter to be memorable, then be different. You could try using a creative opening, such as leading with a story. Using a story can immediately and tangibly connect donors to the person or cause that they have helped.
Storytelling is a tactic that many non-profit organizations use in order to create empathy between the donors and the project, and to also share the results of their contributions.
For instance, this thank you letter from the Australian Red Cross shared the story of Luis Lomai and how the donor’s contribution helped Luis to get the necessary tools to build a temporary shelter.
Tip #3 Find your non-profit’s unique voice
When you read your organization’s thank you letter, does it sound like something you would actually say to someone? If not, chances are your letter sounds too formal or not human enough. It’s important that the words on that page sound like something someone would actually say. Go through your letter sentence by sentence and think about what you would say to someone if they were sitting across the table from you. That’s your natural voice!
I would recommend you to use a personal and friendly tone when writing a donor thank you letter, this would embrace the appreciation that is behind the donation that has been received.
Tip #4 Be genuine when thanking donors
When writing a donor thank you letter, it is great to shower contributors with gratitude. But I do think there is a point at which it can start to sound a bit insincere. Be grateful without being over the top.
Tip #5 Write short sentences
If you want your letter to be easy to read, write in short sentences. Sentences that run on are difficult to read and leave you confused. Again, think about how we naturally communicate.
Tip #6 Use short words
You don’t have to use big or academic words to get your point across. In fact, if you do use big words, you are more likely to lose your reader along the way. Our main goal, after all, is to inspire and engage donors as they have made a gift. This means we need to explain the work they contributed to in a simple, straightforward manner.
Tip #7 Use the word “You” often
When you wonder how to write an engaging donor thank you letter, using the word “You” is one way to grab your reader’s attention, and it has the added benefit of making the letter sound more personable. Many thank you letters will use the word “we” to talk about the organization, as well as the organization and the donor. But this can alienate the donor. Instead, keep the focus on the donor and use the word “you.”
Tip #8 Be specific about donor impact
Nothing drives me more up the wall than reading a thank you letter that says something like, “Your gift is making an impact.” If you use words like “impact” or “difference” you have to explain what that impact or difference is. All too often I read thank you letters that don’t explain this and it leaves the reader wanting more, though not in a good way. Be specific about the impact or difference your donors are part of.
A way of being more specific about the generated “impact” by the donor’s contribution, could be sharing either an important numerical figure or the story of a specific person.
As an example of sharing numerical figures, the following donor thank you letter from the Charity Water organization states the goal achieved and the number of people that will be benefited as a result of the fundraising campaign.
If you find it challenging to explain your non-profit’s impact, read this post next.
Tip #9 Be uplifting
Your organization may still have miles to go before your mission is achieved or perhaps the problem you’re working to solve is showing no signs of slowing down, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the strides you have made. It is important to use an uplifting tone and perspective in thank you letters. You don’t want donors to feel hopeless about making a gift to your cause. You want them to feel good about that decision.
Tip #10 Paint an inspiring vision for donors
As you wrap up your thank you letter, end by demonstrating a vision. It could be a vision for the program that your donor gave it. It could be a vision for your relationship with the donor, or something else. By demonstrating vision, you will keep the door to that relationship open. You will have a reason to keep in touch and provide them with updates. This is an important part of the relationship building process between solicitations.
Now you know how to write a donor thank you letter! Keep in mind these tips and engage with your donors. Being thankful helps us build trust and closer bonds with the people around us. Building a connection between your organization and the donors since the first interaction can lead to a long lasting relationship.
I’d love to see some examples of the “vision” donors can be left with in the wrap-up!
Vanessa Chase Lockshin says
Hi Maureen! Thanks for submitting this question. I’ll dig up some examples and circle back. For now I would say that if you want to paint of picture of the vision for donors, keep explaining and illustrating what’s possible when people continue to support your organization. What change(s) have you already made in your community because of the support? What kind of impact could those changes continue to have? Exploring those questions can help you explain the vision.