How to Write a Meaningful Thank You Email for Donors

Saying thank you never goes out of style.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup nonprofit running your first campaign or a historic charity — sending donors a thoughtful thank you message is one of the most important things your organization can do.

Donors are more interested in receiving personalized messages and learning about the impact of their donation, rather than getting pricey gifts. This means that even small or cash-strapped organizations can still make a great impression just by saying thank you.

For a truly meaningful thank you, there are a few things you should know about the person you’re thanking.

  1. Who is the donor?
  2. Which campaign or program did they give to?
  3. How will you turn their gift into impact?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can craft the kind of thank you that shows donors how much their gift means to your nonprofit.

Let’s take a closer look at what goes into a meaningful thank you email.

1. Who  is the Donor?

You know a form letter when you see it. Whether it’s direct mail or email, a generic salutation followed by vague language will tip you off. In a thank you message, this lack of specificity undermines your message of gratitude. Don’t let your first impression be impersonal and off-putting.

Always address a thank you with the supporter’s name, not with “FRIEND” or “DONOR.” This small detail shows that your donors are not nameless, faceless figures, but important members of your community.

Dear Dianne,

We just want to thank you.

Thank you for showing your commitment to our state’s natural beauty by giving to our City Spaces Campaign. None of our work could be done without our amazing supporters, and we are especially grateful for repeat donors like you…”

But addressing the donor by name is only the first step. To truly recognize a supporter, you should reference the history they have with your organization. Have they donated before? Are they a volunteer?

Acknowledging these details is like asking a friend about an event or person they mentioned before. It shows you’re listening and paying attention. It shows that you care.

2. Which  Campaign or Program Did They Give to?

Think about how you write thank you cards for wedding gifts. It’s customary to mention the gift you received. It’s a personal touch that shows you appreciate their gift specifically, that you know which program or fundraising campaign they chose to support.

“We exceeded our City Spaces campaign goal of $10,000, and are now securing natural spaces in urban Cleveland and Columbus.”

You can also update the donor on the campaign’s results and remind them of its purpose. This reminds the donor why they gave in the first place and strengthens their connection with your work.

Branding the message with the campaign or program’s imagery or logo gives the supporter a seamless experience from call to action to donation page to thank you email.

Pro Tip: Don’t make another ask in your thank you message. This step is all about celebrating what the donor has done and how it will make a difference.

3. How  Will You Turn Their Gift Into Impact?

A complete thank you leaves a donor feeling like they’ve accomplished something, like they’ve done something to move your cause forward. This is why you must explain how you will put their donation to good use.

This will naturally follow the portion when you note the campaign or program involved, but now you should get more specific. Tell the donor how their contribution will feed the hungry, tell them the location of the school it will build, help them envision the future they are creating. You can even relate the amount they gave to a specific type of impact.

“Your donation is helping create 12 community parks that will be free and open to the public. Six months from now, families living in the city will have access to grass, trees, and playgrounds!”

Providing details like the start date of your new project or the names of people working on or affected by the program makes the impact more real for the reader. Donors may never need the medical treatment you provide or meet the people helped by your disaster relief program, but you can still make the experience tangible. Whatever your nonprofit’s cause, use your thank you message to bring that donor’s impact to life.

Style Tips

Once you outline the content of your thank you message using the information above, finish it off using these style tips.

  • Brand Your Message – Whether you use email or direct mail, your thank you message should have your organization’s name and logo on it. Keep your brand’s colors and imagery in mind when designing a thank you.
  • Mind Your Tone – Even if you know what to say, how you say it makes a big difference. The tone of your thank you message should be appreciative, positive, and proactive.
  • Offer a Point of Contact – A warm, personalized thank you shouldn’t only have the donor’s name. Each message should be signed with a staff member’s name and contact information. Most people won’t feel the need to respond, but a thank you from an individual is more meaningful than a thank you from an organization.

Looking for more nonprofit advice and resources? Check out our nonprofit resources here. 

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