Altus Dynamics Blog

[FREE TEMPLATE]: How to Write Outstanding Donor Thank You Letters

Posted by Chris Carre on Dec 1, 2015 3:15:33 PM

Mailbox.jpgAs we approach the holiday season, it’s crucial to make sure you’re ready for the year-end giving season. But your end-of-year work doesn’t end in December.

As the New Year begins, you have one important challenge to face:  how can you make sure you’re going to retain as many of these new donors as possible?

You start with a thank you! And leveraging these “Thank you!” best practices will put you one step closer to the enviable donor-who-doesn’t-look-back.


When you go to a wedding, you probably expect a Thank You for your gift in a reasonable amount of time. You put hard work into choosing it and getting it there, and knowing that it was appreciated (and that they’re that excited to say thanks!) makes all the difference. The same is true for your donors. In her book, Penelope Burke found that 95% of donors would appreciate a thank you call within 2 days of donating (Tweet this Stat!), and 85% of donors said that this kind of thank you call would influence them to give again (Tweet this Stat!).

Punctuality keeps your nonprofit at the front of their mind, and shows off your organization’s well-run and courteous personality. And, all the while? You’re reassuring them that they made a good choice in donating to you.


Another way to display respect through your thank you letters is to address the letter to the donor’s name, with correct spelling. This might seem obvious. You’re might even be scoffing a little bit. But tons of letters are and will continue to be sent out with “Dear Friend” as the greeting—or with a spelling mistake that slipped by. Putting in the extra effort to ensure your note is just for your donor will go a long way.

When addressing your letters, using the correct salutation (Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.) shows you respect your donor’s preferences and the relationship they have with your organization. While using first names may add personality (which we’ll get to later), formal salutations can make donors feel like royalty.


Along with providing a prompt response with the correct salutation, a great donor thank you letter contains specifics: what did the donation do, who is it helping, and how does it support the mission. In the nonprofit to donor relationship, openness is key for maintaining a healthy relationship. Including photos of beneficiaries or of the donor’s impact on your organization’s goals also ties the thank you back to the donation. By keeping them in the loop and including the facts in your thank yous, you build a bond with your donor that isn’t just about money. They’re giving to you because they believe in you: show them what that belief is doing for the world.


If a friend generously gave you $20, would you ask for another $50 in the midst of thanking them? Probably not. It’s the same in your thank you letters.  If you ask for more before you’re done showing your appreciation, you risk alienating your donor, no matter how excited they are about your mission! That’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to turn your one-time donor into a recurring partner.

However, you can ask for something non-monetary. Something simple: like us on Facebook, #hashtag your campaign name, social shares, volunteer opportunities, and/or event invitations. Every communication should come with the request that you build your relationship with your donor--it’s just best to keep money out of your thank yous.


Another great way to spice up your thank you letters is to have them sent from a “celebrity”. Not necessarily a Hollywood star (hey, unless that’s an option for you!), but a celebrity from your nonprofit. Someone like a member of your C-suite team, BOD chair person, or a beneficiary. Sending thank you letters from your organization’s top people or constituents will make the donors feel special and important – “The CEO sent me a letter? I guess I’m kind of a big deal”.  And, if you can, send letters from multiple team members or stakeholders. In the case of thanking donors, the more the merrier!


Finally, the most critical part of adding personality to improve your donor thank you letters is adding emotion. When writing your letters, think about how the donation makes your organization feel. Happy, thankful, and gracious towards the donor. How will it make your beneficiaries, stakeholders, and constituents feel? These are things to be thinking about when writing your letters. By embedding positive emotions into your writing, you can stop transacting just donations and thank yous, and start to forge deeper relationships with your supporters.

There isn’t necessarily a wrong way to say thank you, but there are better ways to say it. As long as you display your respect for donors, don’t make an ask (for money!), and show your personality, you’ll have a much easier time retaining your donors past this #GivingTuesday.

Want more Thank You Letter know-how? Take a look at our new Donor Thank You Letter Templates:

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This Post Was Written By Chris Carre
Chris Carre is our in house Dynamics CRM Specialist, who is Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customization & Configuration certified as well as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Applications certified. He’s been with Sparkrock now for over 2 years, and just recently won our company's Integrity Award.
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