It’s important to thank donors right away when they make a donation through your website. Not only is saying “thank you” the polite thing to do, but a good, heartfelt "thanks" builds the relationship and makes donors open to giving again later.
An immediate thank you/receipt shows the donor that the donation went through and provides them a receipt for their tax records.
Plus, donors secretly want to be reassured that they made a good decision to give to your nonprofit, but they’ll never tell you that!
It sounds like a big job to thank donors well, but it’s not. Your donor management system can automatically generate and send a proper gift acknowledgment streamlining the process.
But there is so much more to thanking donors than just acknowledging their gift with a standard receipt. The most important thing you can do when you thank donors with a donation receipt is to make them feel amazing for stepping up and donating to an important cause.
Here’s how you craft a powerful donor thank you that hits the mark every time:
Personalize it: Never use Dear friend or a similarly generic salutation. Always use the person’s first name, unless you don’t have it. Personalization shows you’re organized and that you care about the donor, not just their donation.
Start with heartfelt words of appreciation: Write your letter in the first person. Thank the donor for giving, for choosing your organization, for caring about people or animals impacted by your cause. Write from one person to one person, making it feel very conversational.
Remind the donor of the amount and date of their gift: This is a receipt some donors will need for their tax records. Include this information prominently, so they don’t have to search for it. Consider bolding the gift amount and date so it stands out.
Share a brief, meaningful story about how donations are used: Staff and volunteers in direct services have many stories to share. Ask them, and share the stories that best demonstrate the importance of your work with donors. You don’t need to include details that would violate their privacy. Focus on how your organization’s work made someone’s life better in just a couple of sentences.
Share a data point or fact that illustrates the urgency of your nonprofit’s work: Think about a number or fact that shows why donations are badly needed right now. Something like “1 out of 3 kids in our area will go to bed hungry tonight” can drive the message home.
Use hero language: When you thank donors, always let the donor know that their gift had a direct, positive impact on a person, animal, or the environment. The donor saw a need and did something about it. They gave and it made a difference.
Ask if the donor has any questions: Give the donor the opportunity to contact you if they have any questions or want more information about how their donation was used or your organization’s work. This is a fantastic opportunity to open a door for the donor to get more involved. Even if they never take you up on the offer, they’ll appreciate your openness.
End with more heartfelt words of thanks: End your email the way you started it, by expressing thanks.
Include a digital signature: Even when you thank donors via email, you can include a signature. You can learn how to do this through a tutorial from your email provider or donor management software.
Include a photo or video: The final, powerful touch you can add to your email is a photo or video that relates to your story and reminds the donor of the importance and urgency of your organization’s work. One photo is enough. Zoom it in or crop it so the most important part is large enough to easily see. Include context if necessary so the donor will immediately understand what’s going on in the photo. If you use a video, it’s okay to link it to your blog, YouTube, or Vimeo channel where the donor can watch it.
Here are two examples of emails that thank donors in ways that make them feel great about their gift:
I want to thank you for your gift of $50 to the Avondale Food Pantry on June 26, 2021. Your gift will make such a difference in keeping the pantry’s shelves stocked with the fresh foods our families need.
I recently met a single father with two teen sons who needed a little support. He said he had never been to a food pantry before. He couldn’t believe he was able to choose the items his boys like, including cereal, their favorite. He thanked us for allowing him to keep his dignity while seeking help for his family.
Requests for food from our small pantry are up 18% since last year. It is even more urgent that we maintain a well-stocked pantry, which we can only do with support from donors like you.
Please contact me at 404-555-5555 if you have any questions about your gift or if you’d like a tour of the pantry. I would love to share more about what we are doing to nourish our neighbors in need.
Thank you again for caring when the need for compassion has never been greater!
The dogs and cats all think you’re the best!
Thank you so much for your gift of $100 on June 26, 2021. Your gift means we can spay more dogs and cats, protect them from heartworms and fleas, and give them a chance to be adopted into a loving home.
Carter is a boxer mix whose first owner neglected and abandoned him. He arrived thin and skittish. After addressing Carter’s medical needs, we placed him in a foster home. After seven weeks of foster care, training, and follow-up medical care, a police officer adopted Carter.
Carter is the 60th dog we have placed this year. With support from donors like you, we can rescue more dogs and cats and place them in loving homes. As you know, the work we do does not just benefit dogs and cats. The people who adopt our pets often struggle with loneliness, mental and physical health challenges, and other issues. They benefit immeasurably from the relationship with their new pet, all made possible by your gift and your compassion.
Thank you again for caring about animals and the people who need them in their lives. Please call me at 404-555-5555 if you have any questions about your gift or our work.
When you thank donors via email, you don’t have to lose the personal touch of a traditional snail mail letter, nor do you want to miss an opportunity to let the donor know how their gift will be used and the impact made.
Most importantly, you want to make sure the donor knows that you think they are wonderful.
By taking time to thank donors the right way, you will increase the chances that donors will return to your website and make another donation.
Author: Sandy shows founders and leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their dream so they can make the difference they want to make in the world. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Find out more at www.GetFullyFunded.com.