How to Express Gratitude: Tips and Techniques for Writing an Impactful Donor Thank You Letter [+ FREE Templates]
But, it’s not enough just to say “thank you” and have that suffice. You need to also communicate the impact of their contributions in a timely and personalized manner. This is why a well-articulated thank-you letter comes in handy.
Thank you letters serve as a perfect opportunity to show your appreciation for those who contribute to your organization’s success. These letters also give you the opportunity to engage and retain them long-term. Writing a thank you letter seems like an easy enough feat, but how that letter would be received by your recipients is all in the details.
This article outlines nonprofit thank-you letter best practices, explores why they are important for your organization’s continued success, and includes five customizable templates to help get you started.
What is a Thank You Letter?
A thank you letter is a follow-up letter sent to someone who has contributed either time or money to your nonprofit organization. This is a great way to show gratitude and serves as a touchpoint for you to encourage them to continue supporting your organization long-term.
Failure to acknowledge a generous donation or time spent volunteering for your organization may give the impression that you’re ungrateful and cause donors to forget about your nonprofit altogether.
80% of donors who only made a one-time donation expressed that they would have made a second donation if they had received follow-up communication thanking them for their contribution and outlining their donation’s impact. Considering the high cost of acquiring new donors, stewarding your existing donors with a thank-you letter is necessary for continued fundraising success.
If you’re having trouble finding the time to send thank you messages to your donor, there are tools available, such as Keela Automation that can help streamline this work so that your donors never go unthanked!
The Impact of Thank You Letters
Let’s delve into the positive impact that thank you letters have on donors, sponsors, volunteers, and event attendees, while emphasizing the potential long-term benefits of expressing gratitude and its role in donor retention.
Recognition and Appreciation
Nothing compares to the feeling of being recognized and appreciated for your efforts. Whether you’ve donated money, sponsored an event, or volunteered your time, receiving a heartfelt thank you letter can create a lasting impression. It demonstrates that your contribution was not only noticed but also valued. A well-crafted thank you letter conveys genuine gratitude, making the recipient feel acknowledged and appreciated for their support.
Thank you letters serve as a bridge between the recipient and the organization or cause they’ve supported. By sending a personalized note, you create an opportunity to establish a deeper connection. Sharing stories of how their contribution made a difference, expressing gratitude for their specific involvement, and even inviting them to future events or volunteer opportunities can help nurture a stronger relationship. This personal touch strengthens the bond between the donor, sponsor, volunteer, or attendee and the organization, increasing the likelihood of continued support in the long run.
Enhancing Donor Retention
Donor retention is a critical aspect of any organization’s sustainability and growth. Expressing gratitude through thank you letters significantly contributes to donor retention efforts. Research has shown that donors who receive a prompt and personalized thank you letter are more likely to continue their support and make future contributions. By demonstrating appreciation for their past support, you build trust and goodwill, making donors feel valued as an integral part of the organization’s mission. As a result, they are more inclined to maintain their commitment and contribute again in the future.
Thank you letters have a ripple effect that goes beyond the recipient. When donors, sponsors, volunteers, or attendees receive a thoughtful thank you letter, they are more likely to share their positive experience with others. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and by expressing gratitude, you encourage recipients to become brand advocates. They may talk about their involvement and your organization to their friends, family, colleagues, and social media networks, ultimately amplifying your reach and potentially attracting new supporters.
Inspiring Continued Engagement
Thank you letters can serve as catalysts for continued engagement. By expressing gratitude and highlighting the impact of the recipient’s contribution, you inspire them to stay involved. Whether it’s attending future events, considering additional donations, or volunteering their time, recipients are more likely to remain engaged when they understand the significance of their past involvement. Furthermore, thank you letters can also act as a gentle reminder of ongoing opportunities for support, keeping your cause fresh in their minds.
Get Started with Thank You Letter Templates!
We know creating a thank you letter, or email from scratch can be a challenge. We create a guide and 7 customizable templates to thank donors, volunteers, sponsors, and more!
How To Write The Perfect Donation Thank You Letter
Let’s explore how to write your donor thank you letter’s introduction, body, and conclusion.
1. The introduction
Introductions are one of the most vital pieces of your letter as this is the first impression that your audience will have of your organization. While a two to three-line paragraph seems simple enough, the execution is what will keep your readers invested.
Your introduction should always start with a personalized acknowledgment and gratitude for their contribution to your organization. If you are thanking a donor, it is also important to include their donation amount. This adds a personal touch to your letter and reminds the recipient of how much they gave before. Keela’s email marketing feature has the ability to personalize each email and pull in information such as donor name, donation amount, and organization name to take care of this for you!
Finish off your introduction with two to three sentences outlining the vital work that your organization does within your community.
2. The body
This is the largest portion of your thank you letter and one that is dedicated to your supporters. In your introduction, you should have already touched on the work your organization does within your community, so the body of your letter should be dedicated to your supporters and how you can deepen your relationship with them.
The body of your thank you letter emphasizes how the supporters’ time or money was used. This is a good way to build trust while also garnering an emotional connection to your organization’s mission. When outlining donors’ impact, get specific; donors want to know exactly where their time and money are going!
Here are a few ways that you can achieve this:
- Include a picture and a short impact story about how their donation helped a specific person
- Outline what items your organization purchased with their money and who it went to
- Share success stories of people that your organization has helped
Communicate your impact with this FREE Storytelling Toolkit.
Use this toolkit to discover the key elements of a good impact story and learn how to create yours. Plus, you will get access to a template so you can get a head start.
3. The conclusion
Last but certainly not least is your conclusion. This is important because this is where you include your call-to-action. You don’t want to explicitly ask for another donation, as that can leave donors feeling as though you’re not actually invested in building a meaningful relationship.
Instead, use this last paragraph of your thank you letter to encourage donors to get involved with your organization. Since they donated their time or money to your organization at least once, they likely already have an emotional connection to your mission. Now is the time to invite them into your community. You can invite them to join your monthly giving program or your next fundraising event.
Remember: the goal of your donor thank letter should be to remind donors of the value of their contribution and encourage them to keep supporting your cause.
Nonprofit Thank You Letter Writing Tips and Best Practices
When writing thank you letters, it’s important to be genuine and thoughtful. This step is a vital part of donor retention.
You want to be personal with your outreach initiatives. So the more catered your messages are, the better. This is the reason that a lot of fundraisers tend to stay away from templates. But we think this is a bit of a flaw—templates help to organize your ideas in a logical flow.
Before we discuss the structure of your thank you letter, let’s first look at seven nonprofit thank you letter best practices to keep in mind throughout the process.
1. Send your letter as soon as possible
A timely response is an important part of supporter recognition. Donors, sponsors, and volunteers wish to be thanked for their contributions, and expressing your appreciation goes a long way in maintaining the relationship. Considering many people also forget they may have contributed, it’s important that you say thank you while it’s still fresh in their minds. The sooner your team can reach out, the better.
2. Consider the format
Understand your audience. If you have an older demographic of supporters, sending a physical letter through the mail might be better. However, if you have a younger demographic of supporters, you might want to send an email and can also get more creative by including a video. This will increase the likelihood that your supporters will actually receive the message and that it will resonate with them. Especially because contacting donors on their preferred medium contributes to increased donor retention rates.
If you are going to be thanking your donors with a physical letter, ensure that your CRM has the ability to do as much as the heavy lifting as possible, like Keela!
Never Miss an Opportunity to Steward Your Donors with Keela!
Get a glimpse of how Keela’s email marketing and automation tools can help you to build and send engaging emails and thank you letters to your donors and supporters.
3. Take the tone of voice into account
When writing thank you letters, it’s important to be genuine and thoughtful. Many organizations make the mistake of sounding stiff when corresponding with their donors. While that writing style may work across your social channels or marketing assets, it’s important to remember that this is a personalized conversation with a real human!
Take the time to personalize your message as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to be down-to-earth and lighthearted. You want readers to know they are a part of your community and akin to a friend. Treat your thank you letter as you would telling a close friend that you appreciate their help.
4. Be concise and clear
Let the focus of your message be strictly about thanking them for their contribution. Avoid strong and aggressive calls-to-action which can make your gratitude seem disingenuous.
5. Proofread your work
Every touchpoint a supporter has with your organization is an opportunity to demonstrate your dedication to the cause. Your messaging should be professional and free of grammar or spelling mistakes, especially when spelling the supporter’s name!
6. Don’t ask for money
As discussed above, refrain from asking for money in your thank you letter. Doing so takes away from the intention of the letter, which was to express gratitude. This can give the impression that you weren’t sincere in your previous messaging and that you have ulterior motives.
7. Share the impact
The main focus of a thank-you letter is to express gratitude, so naturally, it’s important to show the positive impact they have made on your organization and the community around it. This is why they donate their hard-earned money. Since nonprofit organizations are generally struggling to keep donors’ trust nowadays, promoting transparency is important every step of the way.
Personalization and Customization Techniques
Personalizing these letters is key to creating a lasting impact. Let’s explore strategies for tailoring thank you letters, reflecting specific contributions, incorporating personal anecdotes, sharing project outcomes, and referencing past involvement.
Reflect the Donor’s Contribution: Acknowledge and appreciate the donor’s specific contribution—monetary, in-kind, or volunteer work. Customize your message to highlight its significance and how it impacts your organization’s mission.
Incorporate Personal Anecdotes: Make the letter relatable by sharing personal anecdotes. Connect the donor’s action to a real-life experience, illustrating the impact of their support.
Share Project Outcomes: Highlight specific project outcomes to demonstrate the tangible results of the donor’s support. Showcase the positive change their contribution has made.
Reference Past Involvement: Recognize any past involvement the donor has had with your organization. Show appreciation for their loyalty and encourage continued support.
Nonprofit Thank You Letter Outlines and Templates
Now that we have covered tips and best practices, we can begin writing your thank you letter. Below you will find outlines tailored for different supporters, from donors to volunteers, each with a corresponding template. The templates are free and customizable, so you can easily create your perfect thank you letter.
1. Thank You Letter for Donors
This letter thanks donors for their monetary contribution to your organization. You should outline exactly how their money was spent and the impact that long-term support can have on your organization and its community.
Here’s how you should structure your Thank You Letter for Donors:
- Salutation: Unless your donor has insisted otherwise, address them by name to continue nurturing a lasting relationship with the individual.
- Introduction: Start by thanking the donor for their contribution. Take this as an opportunity to be very specific about your gift. This helps to personalize the letter. If there was a specific campaign or impact area that the donor contributed to, you could mention it here.
- Body Paragraph 1: Use this paragraph to discuss what this gift will do. For instance, do you have giving categories that provide a breakdown of what each amount will achieve? Is your project closer to completion because of the contribution? Do you know how many people will be positively impacted by this donation? Sharing these numbers and details fosters a connection between the donor and your work, leading to future gifts of support.
- Body Paragraph 2: Here’s your chance to talk more broadly about your organization’s work and mission. This is a great place to detail how your donor’s contribution actually helps accomplish the organization’s larger mission.
- Conclusion: Thank your donor one final time. There’s no such thing as ‘over-thanking’ here. Let them know that they are important to the mission, and tell them what will happen next with your relationship. Will they receive more information? Will they get progress reports? Detail those points in your conclusion.
- Signature: It’s important to have a handwritten signature at the bottom of your letter, ideally by a leader within your organization. This gesture further demonstrates your gratitude and creates a human connection.
Donor Thank You Letter Template
Thank you SO MUCH for your generous donation of $250 to the Seed Library Initiative! Donors like you help keep our mission of feeding our community’s most vulnerable neighbors alive.
Because of your $250 donation, we will be able to bring in 50 new types of plants into our community garden. Each of these plants should be able to feed a family of four. So, your donation is actually helping to impact the lives of 200 people!
Because of you, these individuals have access to food security locally.
Take Michelle, a young woman who lives in Vancouver, Canada. Michelle lost her job last year and has struggled to buy food for herself and her child. Thanks to your support, she gets a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables every week. On top of that, she found a new purpose in life: gardening! Michelle is now a proud member of our gardening team and couldn’t be happier.
Thank you once again for your generous contribution. We will send you updates over the next few months so that you know exactly what is happening with your donation and the impact that we have been able to create together.
With all my gratitude,
2. Thank You Letter for Sponsors
This letter thanks your sponsors for their support in promoting or funding your event. You will want to outline what a large impact their involvement had in the success of your fundraising efforts and how appreciative you are for their continued support.
Here’s how you should structure your Thank You Letter for Sponsors:
- Salutation: Address this letter to the individual you have worked with to secure the sponsorship. This personalized greeting will mean a lot to the sponsor.
- Introduction: Begin by thanking the sponsor for their specific contribution. Also, mention if there was a specific event that the sponsorship supported.
- Body Paragraph 1: Tell the sponsor what impact they have made through their sponsorship. Successful sponsorship often revolves around ROI or return on investment. This can come in the form of impact, reach, and dollars raised — the list is endless. Clearly, recounting the sponsorship’s positive effects boosts trust and demonstrates what is possible with future sponsorships.
- Body Paragraph 2: Talk more broadly about your organization’s work and mission. This is a great time to share how your sponsor’s contribution helps accomplish the organization’s larger mission.
- Conclusion: Thank them again. Let them know that they are important to the work, moving forward, and tell them what will happen next with your relationship.
- Signature: A founder, director, or board member signature is always best for a sponsor thank you letter.
Sponsorship Thank You Letter Template
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for the support you provided to our Plant Sale fundraiser on Earth Day.
Your contribution was crucial to the success of the event. You helped us gather almost 2,000 plants and seeds from local farmers—all of which were sold as part of our fundraiser.
In total, we raised $16,300. A huge success!
Here’s what a donor said about the event: “It is important for our family to make a difference in our local community. Your organization is making a tremendous impact on so many people while teaching us how to adopt an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Thank you for organizing such a great event! We’ll come again.”
This year, we aim to feed over 100,000 people across the region, and your support is helping us achieve this goal.
We plan to organize more events of this kind in the future and eagerly await the opportunity to partner together again and further our relationship.
With all my gratitude,
3. Thank You Letter for Volunteers
Volunteers donate one of their most precious assets: time. Having people contribute their time to your organization to ensure your fundraising efforts are a success is a huge contribution! This letter should serve as a thank you for their time and the impact that had on your organization. You can also outline the resources that you were able to redirect back into your funding in place of their efforts.
Here’s how to structure your Thank You Letter for Volunteers:
- Salutation: Volunteers are the backbone of every nonprofit, so addressing each volunteer personally by name is important. Feeling appreciated will inspire volunteers to help in the future.
- Introduction: Start by thanking the volunteer for their specific contribution. Speak to the amount of time they have dedicated to the cause and the programs they have volunteered with.
- Body Paragraph 1: Share the impact they have had during their volunteer time. Have you been tracking metrics? Did they help you achieve a very important goal? Talk about those metrics and achievements here to tailor this message.
- Body Paragraph 2: Express the importance of volunteering to your organization’s work, pointing out the volunteer’s role in your organization’s overall mission and vision for the community.
- Conclusion: Thank your volunteers one final time. Invite them to be part of your organization as a volunteer, moving forward. Let them know how important they are to you and that you want them to stay involved.
- Signature: Typically, we recommend a founder, board member, or leader sign a thank you letter; however, in this case, it may mean more to the volunteer if the person working closest with the volunteer or the program director signed this particular letter.
Volunteer Thank You Letter
It was a pleasure to have you at our Plant Sale Fundraiser on Earth Day.
Our community really appreciated the event and it was only possible because of you. Your efforts helped us raise $16,300. A huge success!
Your idea to partner with local gardeners and have them share their expertise is a big part of what made this event successful.
All the organizing team appreciates the energy and passion you gave to our event.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and ideas.
I look forward to seeing you again and especially at our next event.
With all my gratitude,
4. Thank You Letter for Event Attendees
Nonprofit events can be very overstimulating for some donors and supporters; they can take up a large amount of time for attendees and be a one-and-done affair. Promptly following up with attendees after an event can serve as a touchpoint and opportunity for you to remind them of the topics discussed, thank them for contributing to your event’s success and encourage them to keep supporting your mission long term.
Here’s how you can structure your Thank You Letter for Event Attendees:
- Salutation: Events can be tricky because you might not have had the chance to meet everyone and build a personal relationship. We would still use this as an opportunity to address individuals by their first names. This makes it more personal, even if you missed that chance at the event.
- Introduction: Thank the event attendee for coming to your event. Be sure to reference the event’s name, so the recipient knows exactly what this is referring to.
- Body Paragraph: Talk about some highlights from the event and mention any positive outcomes. Was there a fundraising goal that you hit? Were there any special prizes given out? Talk about those here.
- Conclusion: Thank your attendee again. Conclude with some follow-up items, if you have any, such as photos or videos from the event, links to a survey, etc.
- Signature: The main organizer of the event should sign off here. You can also ask someone higher up in your organization to do the sign-off to make the recipient feel a bit more important.
Event Attendance Thank You Letter
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for attending our annual gala.
It was a massive success, and your support means a lot to me.
The gala helped us raise $22,000. This money will be put towards our mission—making food accessible for those who need it.
This year, we aim to feed over 100,000 people, and your participation is helping us provide assistance to entire communities.
I invite you to take a look at the photos of the event.
Once again, thank you so much. Grandview Heights Community Garden could not do what it does without the generous support of a caring community.
May you have a happy and prosperous year.
With all my gratitude,
Innovative Thank You Approaches
Nonprofits have taken gratitude to new heights, moving beyond traditional thank you letters. They now employ innovative approaches to express appreciation, such as personalized videos, handwritten notes, and small tokens of appreciation. These methods leave a lasting impression, reinforcing the connection between the organization and its donors.
1. Personalized Videos:
Bringing Gratitude to Life Personalized videos create a genuine connection with donors, featuring heartfelt thanks and impactful stories. This multimedia approach evokes emotions, leaving a memorable impact and strengthening the donor’s bond with the organization.
2. Handwritten Notes:
Authenticity in Communication The personal touch of a handwritten note goes a long way in conveying authenticity and appreciation. Nonprofits understand the power of a heartfelt message sent by mail, fostering a deeper connection with donors and making them feel valued.
3. Small Tokens of Appreciation:
Making a Lasting Impression Nonprofits utilize small tokens of appreciation, like customized items or branded merchandise, to provide a tangible reminder of support. These gestures create a sense of belonging and serve as conversation starters, spreading awareness of the organization’s mission.
4. Memorable Experiences:
Connecting on a Deeper Level Innovative nonprofits go beyond the ordinary by offering exclusive events and immersive experiences. Donors get the opportunity to witness the impact of their contributions firsthand, fostering a stronger bond with the organization and inspiring continued support.
The Role of Thank You Letters in Donor Stewardship
Donor stewardship plays a pivotal role in nurturing relationships and ensuring long-term support. Amidst various strategies, one often underestimated yet highly effective tool is the humble thank you letter. Let’s delve into the significant role thank you letters play in donor stewardship, highlighting how they can serve as the foundation for ongoing engagement and provide valuable tips on leveraging these letters to foster deeper connections with donors.
Understanding the Broader Strategy:
At its core, donor stewardship aims to build strong, lasting relationships with supporters. It involves a thoughtful and strategic approach to donor care, ensuring that contributors feel valued and appreciated for their generosity. Thank you letters serve as an integral part of this broader strategy by expressing gratitude, recognizing the impact of the donor’s gift, and reinforcing their connection to the cause.
The Foundation for Ongoing Engagement:
Thank you letters serve as the cornerstone for ongoing donor engagement. They go beyond a mere acknowledgement of a donation; they offer an opportunity to educate, inspire, and build rapport with donors. By crafting personalized and meaningful thank you letters, organizations can foster a sense of belonging and loyalty, encouraging donors to become more deeply invested in the cause.
Tips for Leveraging Thank You Letters:
- Promptness and Personalization: Send thank you letters promptly after receiving a donation to convey a sense of urgency and appreciation. Personalize each letter to acknowledge the donor’s specific contribution, mentioning the impact their gift will have on the organization’s mission.
- Express Genuine Gratitude: Use heartfelt language to convey sincere appreciation. Share specific examples of how the donor’s support will make a difference, emphasizing the role they play in achieving the organization’s goals. Authenticity is key in fostering a genuine connection.
- Share Success Stories: Include compelling stories that illustrate the impact of the donor’s generosity. Highlight the stories of beneficiaries or showcase successful projects that the organization has undertaken. This not only reinforces the donor’s belief in the cause but also gives them a sense of pride in their involvement.
- Invitation to Further Engagement: Use thank you letters as an opportunity to invite donors to become more involved. Offer avenues for deeper engagement, such as volunteering, attending events, or joining a donor advisory group. This opens the door for future interactions and demonstrates a genuine interest in building a lasting relationship.
- Follow-Up Communications: View the thank you letter as just the beginning of an ongoing conversation. Plan subsequent touchpoints, such as email newsletters, impact reports, or invitations to exclusive donor events. Regular communication helps to keep donors informed and engaged, reinforcing their commitment to the cause.
Measuring the Impact of Thank You Letters
Let’s explore the significance of tracking and analyzing data and introduce key metrics and tools to evaluate the impact of your thank you letter efforts.
Importance of Tracking and Analyzing Data:
In the ever-evolving landscape of nonprofit fundraising, data is the backbone of informed decision-making. Tracking and analyzing data related to thank you letters offer valuable insights into your organization’s donor relations and can help you continuously improve your strategies. By harnessing the power of data, you can enhance donor satisfaction, boost engagement, and foster long-term relationships.
Metrics for Evaluating Thank You Letter Impact:
- Donor Response Rate: The donor response rate measures the percentage of donors who respond to your thank you letters. A higher response rate indicates that your letters have resonated with recipients and have effectively conveyed your appreciation. Tracking this metric over time allows you to identify trends and refine your thank you letter approach accordingly.
- Donor Engagement: Thank you letters can serve as a catalyst for donor engagement. Monitoring the level of subsequent interactions, such as subsequent donations, volunteer involvement, or event attendance, can provide insights into the impact of your thank you letters on donor engagement. Analyzing these engagement metrics helps you identify the effectiveness of your letter in fostering ongoing connections and inspiring continued support.
- Retention Rate: Retaining donors is vital for the sustainability of any nonprofit organization. A strong thank you letter strategy can significantly influence donor retention. By tracking the retention rate of donors who have received thank you letters compared to those who haven’t, you can assess the impact of your gratitude efforts. Analyzing the reasons behind donor attrition and identifying trends can lead to targeted improvements in your thank you letter content and delivery.
How Nonprofits Use Keela to Send Thank You Messages to Donors
Nonprofit technology is vital for modern nonprofits, especially nonprofits that want to make data-driven decisions. And there are a few ways that technology can help you thank your donors better.
1. Segment Donors using Smart Lists
Using Keela’s CRM software, you can create donor segments based on their contributions to your organization. You can use timely parameters such as: given in the last month, six months from their last gift, and one year from their last gift.
Using these three lists, you can properly segment your donors and tailor your thank you letters to their unique relationship with your organization.
For donors who gave in the last month:
Focus your messaging on the immediacy of donors’ gifts and how they will contribute to your most recent appeals and initiatives.
For donors who gave their last gift six months ago:
Focus your messaging on donors’ impact. Talk about what has happened within your organization since they donated. You will garner donors’ continued support if they feel connected to your cause and know exactly where their hard-earned money is going. But, don’t forget to thank them for their gift—even if you already did after receiving it. The impact that you’re reporting on is a direct outcome of these donors’ contributions.
If they made a donation online, make sure that your online donation form includes impact areas, like Keela’s forms. This will help you understand the specific areas of interest of each donor and allows you to customize your thank you email.
For donors who gave their last gift a year ago:
Focus your messaging on your mission. Talk about what drives your organization and your long-term goals. Helping your donors—especially those from a year ago—understand your organization’s long-term vision will help connect them back to your nonprofit in a tangible way. Thank them for their support in furthering your mission, and invite them to be a part of the impact moving forward. A well-timed thank you might be the best way to re-engage a lapsed donor.
2. Show Donors the Impact of their Contributions
Donors are motivated by your organization’s core mission. They believe in your mission enough to donate their time and money to your cause and want to see you succeed. They are the backbone of your success and want to know that their time and money are being spent wisely. Always make sure that your communications with your donors lead with transparency and authenticity in mind.
You can do this by always personalizing your communications, sending timely messages, and showing genuine gratitude for donors’ contributions to your organization.
Sending well-curated and personalized thank you letters to your donors, sponsors, volunteers, and event attendees will help you nurture these relationships and hopefully retain their support long-term. Share the tips, best practices, and templates from this article with your team and show donors the gratitude they deserve.