It goes without saying that donors play the most significant role in your nonprofit’s success and sustainability. But do your donors understand how much you appreciate them? Don’t just assume they do—make sure they hear it from you directly.
Fundraising for nonprofits takes intention and requires going the extra mile to thank your supporters so that it resonates. Building donor loyalty through intentional thank you messages pays off through return donations, more recurring donors, and potential corporate sponsorship opportunities. The possibilities are endless.
Classy’s Why America Gives found that loyal donors were twice as likely to increase donations in 2022 compared to passive donors, and those donation amounts were four times the amount of passive donors on average.
The value of a meaningful engagement strategy for donor retention and loyalty is clear, but we want to help you take specific actions to build yours. Follow this comprehensive guide to get inspired and appreciate your community appropriately.
3 Key Reasons to Thank Your Donors
1. It Shows You Care About Them
The key to effective donor stewardship is ensuring each supporter finds value in their relationship with your nonprofit organization. Proving you care about each donor can help build stronger trust and connection.
So reciprocate the support they offer you by consistently checking in with them. This improves their rapport with your team and strengthens their tie to your timely goals and long-term mission.
2. It Keeps Your Mission Top of Mind
The more often you communicate with your donors, the more visible you are to them. Once you entirely focus on practicing gratitude fundraising, you’ll realize that thanking donors early often keeps you at the forefront of their minds. The consistency of your gratitude helps remind your donors that they still care about your cause.
This type of communication is also a universally positive one. Rather than just another donation appeal, your appreciation showcases the importance of every supporter’s role in fulfilling your mission.
3. It Increases the Chances Donors Will Return to Give Again
What you reward gets repeated, so reward your supporters with sincere gratitude to ensure they return.
“Nonprofits who raise a lot of money get really good at thanking and reporting,” said fundraising expert Otis Fulton in a recent conversation about the psychology of giving. “They thank people a lot. But too many organizations neglect these two steps.”
You get it—thanking donors for their charitable giving is essential. It’s a valuable way to keep them connected and engaged with your cause before, during, and after each campaign. But maybe understanding the reason for gratitude was never your issue, and you’re more curious about the practical side. Well, we’ve got you covered.
What Makes a Good Thank You?
When thanking donors, you want to ensure your thank you note reinforces the passion and emotion that drove someone to donate to you in the first place while also thanking them for their dedication. Here are some components of a quality thank you that influence donors to continue supporting you into the future.
One of the most essential things about saying “thank you” is timing: it should be promptly after the donor sends a gift. You can show your gratitude in an online donation receipt or create a follow-up “thank you for your donation” letter to add a personal touch shortly after their donation.
But don’t make donors wait to hear from you. The last thing you want is to have a passionate individual write you off before your message arrives.
When writing your letter, say something more than “thank you.” Build an experience that goes beyond a tax receipt or donation summary. This is an opportunity to position your donors as the story’s heroes.
First and foremost, celebrate what this person did and what they helped you accomplish. Highlighting the donor’s impact makes everything instantly more tangible: they can see and feel the real-world implication of supporting you.
Reference the fundraising campaign or project they donated to and, if possible, feature a specific community, place, or person they’ve helped. Perfect your donor communications with these email templates.
It’s not only what you say but how you say it. While your donation request letters and formal appeals may benefit from tones of sympathy or urgency, a thank you letter should have a different feel.
Thank you letters, in large part, make the donor feel good about their decision and show that their generous gift makes a difference. This is why thank you letters should have a positive, can-do tone.
While you can still note the urgency or seriousness of your cause, this message should be one of hope and action. Of course, there’s more work to do, but this letter is about their gift and how it helps.
16 Ideas for How to Thank Nonprofit Donors
1. Show Appreciation on Your Website
Your nonprofit’s website isn’t just a digital hub for communications and fundraising—it’s also a valuable platform for donor and volunteer appreciation.
So create a supporters page on your site. While this most commonly highlights corporate sponsors and foundations, it’s also a simple way to elevate individual donors. You can also use your donation website, blog, or nonprofit newsletter to share a few of your donors’ stories and why they give.
2. Highlight Donors on Social Media
Appreciation posts are great content to add to your seasonal social media calendar. Even if you don’t name specific donors, you can give a general thanks with some impactful statistics.
In doing so, you’ll strengthen relationships with existing donors and showcase the power of your community to anyone curious about getting involved and connecting with something greater than themselves.
3. Craft a Personalized Thank You Email
A timely, personalized thank you email to donors ensures they feel valued. Segment donors by gift size and provide a few examples of the tangible impact their generous donation will make, no matter the amount.
The American Red Cross does a great job of sending out personalized emails to those who support its cause through monetary gifts or blood donations. These emails tell a story of a real person who benefited from donors’ life-saving contributions.
4. Lean Into the Power of Video
A donor thank you video can impact your supporter base emotionally. So take advantage of its effective format to make a lasting impression.
The Ronald McDonald House’s library of YouTube videos that recognize donors’ impact exemplifies this. The YouTube videos feature several messages of thanks that emphasize the Ronald McDonald House community’s critical role in reaching its goals.
5. Pick Up the Phone or Send a Text
When you pick up the phone or send a quick text to thank a donor for their gift, it creates an opportunity to connect with that person in a more relaxed, organic way.
Consider asking for a donor’s phone number and an opt-in to calls or texts from your organization. When done well, this small interaction can make a donor’s day and help build a lasting connection with your organization.
6. Send Donation Thank You Letters
Perhaps you send an automatic email to notify a donor that you received their gift. But what if you followed that up with an old-fashioned handwritten letter too?
Since your letter would arrive sometime after the charitable donation, stewardship letters to donors can serve as the perfect touchpoint to re-engage your supporters with a reminder of their impact.
7. Prioritize Handwritten Thank You Notes
A handwritten note from a staff member or volunteer adds a meaningful, personal touch to your donor stewardship strategy. These notes are effective because a donor can immediately see the time and effort it took for someone to write the message.
Come up with a loose structure to follow for each letter to ensure the sentiment remains consistent. Keep it relatively brief to avoid losing the donor’s interest before they reach the bottom, but don’t forget to add details that speak to that person individually. Even something as simple as adding the donor’s name can make it feel more personal.
8. Send Anniversary Cards
Along with their name and contact information, the date of a donor’s first gift is crucial to keep on hand. Sending donors an anniversary card is a fun way to celebrate their loyalty and commitment to your cause.
9. Celebrate Donors in Your Annual Report
It’s common for organizations to include a running list of donors and sponsors in nonprofit annual reports. Think about how you can bring that list to life to emphasize each donor’s critical role in fulfilling your mission.
Send donors a physical letter to thank them with a print copy of the report or a digital copy when it’s ready to let them know they’re part of something bigger. Also, consider how you can promote the report to your larger community to elevate each donor even more.
10. Send a Welcome Swag Package
A thank you package welcomes donors in style. This package could include a T-shirt, water bottle, canvas tote, tools, and resources to learn more about your organization.
11. Acknowledge Donors During Events
Your next fundraising event might be a great opportunity to call out major donors by name. Invite them to stand up and receive recognition from all attendees or speak on behalf of their experience with your organization.
But before publicly recognizing donors at your next event, ask whether they’re comfortable being honored in front of an audience. If they politely decline, have your staff thank them at the event privately. You could also send a free entry ticket as another form of appreciation.
12. Give an Office Tour
An exclusive tour of your nonprofit office is a good way to provide context around your cause. This is a chance to build face-to-face relationships with your supporters and expose them to a glimpse of what their gifts make possible.
13. Share Some Exclusive Incentives
Nonprofit donors don’t just give to get something in return. But providing some incentives doesn’t hurt. To streamline your donor management initiatives, create giving levels to thank donors with specific items or opportunities that match their gift size. This presents another good chance to share some swag with your community so they can publicly promote their support of your cause.
14. Provide Internal Giving Updates
Not everyone on your staff participates in fundraising efforts or works directly with donors. But they can all be a part of thanking supporters.
In your staff meetings, share brief updates on who gave and how you recognized them. This keeps fundraising top of mind for everyone and ensures all employees are familiar with the names and faces of your supporters.
15. Thank Your Staff Too
It’s not enough to just thank your donors. Your staff and volunteers are equally important in bringing your mission to life.
When sourcing and retaining consistent volunteers, be sure to use similarly creative techniques you employ with donors to recognize your internal team. Preventing staff turnover is critical to the sustainability of your work.
16. Make It Count
By tracking what makes a quality thank you email or note, you ensure every communication you send genuinely showcases this sentiment and has the desired effect.
But don’t just thank donors to check off the box—show your gratitude because you mean it. Make sure they feel your sincerity and hear it from you consistently.
Consider varying the format, style, or content of your thank you messaging to keep it fresh and genuine.
Get Inspired to Build Your Thank You Letter Template
Sometimes, crafting your thank you message is easier when you have somewhere to start. Below, we’ve added a brief thank you letter example you can build on using the best practices we’ve talked about today and a personal touch that will speak to your donors at any stage in their journey.
On behalf of the entire team at the Good Vibes Animal Shelter, we want to tell you just how much your donation means to us.
You might have seen the recent work we’ve done to work toward our goal of increasing our shelter capacity to care for 100 more animals each month by 2025. The good news is your donation just helped us get one step closer to changing the lives of those animals.
We hope you feel our gratitude and can’t wait to share the upcoming fundraising campaigns we’ve planned to continue making progress toward our goal. Until then, catch our daily updates on social media.
You are a part of this essential community, and we couldn’t make this positive impact on our community without you.
Chief Executive Officer, Good Vibes Animal Shelter
How Will You Thank Donors?
Neglecting to thank a new or existing donor is akin to forgetting about them or being unappreciative. So remind donors that without their support, your organization couldn’t deliver on its commitment to your community. It’s a critical step in the larger stewardship journey worth the effort.