You’ve worked hard to bring in those donations, but does the work stop there? Absolutely not. In fact, in many ways, it’s just starting.
When a donor makes a gift to your organization — especially if it’s their first one — you enter the stewardship phase. This is where you communicate with the donor, express your gratitude, and work on building and nurturing your relationship so that the donor continues to give and be an active member of your community for years to come.
And it all starts with, you guessed it, a thank you letter.
A well-crafted, sincere, and meaningful thank you letter can be the difference between a one-time donor and someone who has given regularly for years, volunteers with your organization, and spreads the word about your work among their friends and family.
Why Thank You Letters for Donations are Important
A great thank you letter is much more than just a receipt or confirmation that a transaction has taken place. Here are a few reasons why thank you letters are so important:
1. They allow you to express gratitude
There are thousands of other nonprofits and amazing causes, yet the donor chose to support yours. Use the thank you letter to express your gratitude for their contribution and reassure them that they made the right decision.
2. They make the donor feel valued
Your organization wouldn’t be able to do the work that you do without the support of donors. Make sure they know just how much you need and appreciate them by sending a sincere thank you letter.
3. They help nurture your relationship with the donor
Every interaction and piece of communication you send to the donor helps build your relationship with them. The first thank you letter you send is often the start of that relationship and will inspire the donor to keep giving and engaging with your organization.
4. They’re a part of good donor stewardship
Good donor stewardship means ensuring the donor has a positive, meaningful experience with your organization. It directly impacts your donor retention rate and future fundraising since donors who have an outstanding donor experience are much more likely to give again and often increase the rate and amount of their giving.
Types of Thank You Letters for Donations
There are many types of donations and different thank-you letters associated with each. Here are some of the most common kinds of letters and when to send them:
1. Email: Send a quick thank you note for online donations that don’t require a tax receipt or donations to peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns (though be sure to send a physical letter to the people who raised funds from their friends and their families). An email thank you will let them know immediately that you appreciate them and are thankful for their support.
2. One-time gift: Send a physical thank you letter for any one-time gifts over a certain amount and include a tax receipt.
3. Recurring gift: For donors who give monthly, there’s no need to send a new thank you letter every month, but do send a friendly message once a year to recap their giving and its impact.
4. Pledge gift: Send a thank you letter to individuals or organizations who pledge (a promise to donate a certain amount) over a certain number of years. Don’t forget to send a separate thank you note after each installment comes in.
5. Fundraising: For donors who participate in fundraising events or campaigns, send a thank you letter to show appreciation for their support and effort in rallying the community.
You can include a recap of the fundraising campaign and a personalized note about their impact to show that they are part of something bigger.
6. Gift of securities: Be sure to send a thank you letter to anyone who makes a gift from stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.
7. In-kind gift: Send a thank you letter to individuals or organizations who make in-kind donations (for example, items to sell at your auction).
8. Planned gift: Send a thank you letter to donors who leave your organization in their will. In this case, your stewardship efforts should happen before you receive the funds.
9. Sponsorship: Send a special thank you to companies who sponsor your events and programs.
10. Event attendance: Send a thank you letter to every event attendee, especially if part of the ticket cost is considered a donation.
11. Major gift: Most templated letters will appear insincere for major donors who give a substantial amount and already have an established relationship with your organization. Instead, consider asking your leadership to write a handwritten thank you note.
How to Write Your Own Thank You Letter for Donations
Remember to keep it short and sweet — it’s better to send a brief letter that your donors will read instead of a highly detailed one that will be skimmed at best.
Here’s what to include in your letter:
Start your letter with a statement of gratitude to set the tone for the rest of the message. Use this opportunity to personalize the letter as much as possible.
You should include the donor’s name, donation amount, past contributions, history with your organization, or any recent interactions with you (for example, event attendance).
This will give the donor a sense that you wrote the letter just for them instead of using a generic thank you message for everyone.
In this next section, talk about the impact the donor’s gift will have on your organization’s work. If they’ve given to the exact cause before, talk about what their past contributions have helped you achieve.
Remember always to use donor-centric language (“you” instead of “we”) as much as possible. Try to incorporate stories and quotes from real-life people who’ve benefited or will benefit from the donation.
Here, you can reiterate your gratitude and invite the donor to contact you should they have any questions or concerns. Be sure to include your contact info, and if possible, get a live signature from the letter’s signatory.
Whatever you do, do not ask for another donation in a thank you letter. You can do this later in a dedicated appeal.
Sending a well-crafted, personalized thank you letter to your donors is a simple gesture that can significantly impact their experience and relationship with your organization.
So, why should you write your donors a thank you letter?
When you take the time to write meaningful personal messages of gratitude, you nurture a community of donors that will continue to support your cause for years to come actively.
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