Guest Author: Billy Sharma is a brilliant Direct Marketing Consultant and a Contributor to the Silent Partner Software Blog.
Did you know thank-you emails can make or break the next donation? Five years ago, I decided to do a little experiment. I randomly selected 15 big and small nonprofit organizations and sent each one of them a $20 donation.
Eleven of the nonprofits acknowledged receipt of the donation of which 10 mailed me a cookie-cutter thank-you letter along with my donor receipt, which took between 10 to 20 days to arrive by mail.
Only 1 nonprofit emailed me a thank you note instantly after they received my donation. They followed up with my tax receipt in the mail. That one charity is still on my yearly giving list.
Here are tips on writing a great donation thank-you email, and a bunch of donation thank you letter email examples:
1. Personalize it
Earthjustice does a great job at keeping a personal tone throughout their emails like the one below.
They address the donor by their first name and use simple and meaningful wording to strengthen the relationship between the donor and them.
It’s easy to personalize thank-you emails with a nonprofit CRM that is connected to your online donation page.
Donation thank you-letter example – Earthjustice.
When crafting a thank you email for donations, remember that personalization isn’t just a strategy to get your donors to interact with your emails but it also increases the chances of your email being opened by 26% according to Campaign Monitor. Even small touches like mentioning the specific amount your donor donated makes it more personal.
2. Link Donation to Impact
Helping donors see and understand the impact of their donations is so important! Kids Now does a great job of using their thank-you email to show the direct impact of the donation by linking it to the accomplishments of the organization.
They also do a great job of inviting the donor to become even more involved by coming to an open house, which will strengthen that relationship even more. We’ll talk about this more in the next tip!
Here’s another great example of using your thank-you email for donations to show the impact of the donation:
If you’re still wondering how you can link donations directly to your accomplishments, here are some examples of wording you might use in your thank-you email:
- Your contribution has helped us plant 20 trees in the Amazon.
- Your donation went towards retiling the roof of our Oxford children’s center so they can do their homework and hang out in a safe and insulated environment.
- With your support, Luciano was able to attend an after-school woodworking program.
3. Include a Call to Action
Once you’ve thanked donors personally and showed them the impact of their donation, you can also use the thank-you email to invite them to get even more involved by visiting, calling, or following your progress on social media.
Here’s a great example from Penelope Burk, who’s known for advocating for the importance of thank-you’s in Donor Centered Fundraising:
Another thing you could do is give your donors the name, phone number, and email address of a specific person at your nonprofit they can contact in case they have questions. Say “Call Cathy at: 416 000-0000 or Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
4. Keep your Emails Concise
Keep your thank you email for donations short and to the point. The main purpose is to express your gratitude.
5. Thank Again & Again
Sending a thank-you email right after a donor makes a gift is crucial, but you shouldn’t stop there. Take every opportunity to remind donors that you appreciate their support and that you couldn’t achieve what you do without them!
You can thank them again in update emails, in holiday emails, and in other communications you send out.
The more you show your appreciation and remind donors that they are part of your success, the more they will feel connected to your organization and they’ll want to keep supporting you!
Here are some examples of an instant Thank You Donation Email:
Thank When Updating Donors:
Thank When Sending Holiday Greetings:
6. Send Thank You Immediately After Donation
If you have a large volume of individual donations coming in throughout the year, automating donation thank-you emails is a good idea.
For example, Sumac’s donor management software personalizes and sends donation thank-you emails right after a donation is made.
The donation page also sends thank-you emails to donors who give on your website immediately after a donation is made.
7. Ask Donors to Spread the Word
Because people like to share today, use the donation thank you email to ask your donors to share your campaign among their family and friends on social media. To do this just include sharing buttons in your email.
8. Be Smart With Your Subject Line
Your subject line dictates if your donation thank-you email is going to be opened or not, so make sure your subject line clearly expresses your thanks to the donor who has just made a gift to your organization.
Here are some examples of wording you could use in the Subject line:
- Joan, you just made my day!
- A special thank you email for your thoughtful gift
8. Use a Clear “From” Name
When sending out your donation thank-you emails, make sure your charity’s name shows clearly in the “From” field of your email. Donors are more likely to open an email if they know it’s from a person they know or a charity they support.
Here are some examples of wording you could use in the ‘From line’:
- From: Trip Van Noppen, President, Earthjustice
- From: Earthjustice, the nonprofit you just donated to
9. Show Your Gratitude With the Right Words
Make your thank-you message sound meaningful, sincere and heartfelt. Remember, unlike letters that are formal, emails are more like one-on-one communications.
Here is an example of wording you could use in the Email:
I cannot express the joy and delight when I saw your donation on my table this morning as I walked into my office today. Thank you so much for saving the environment for future generations and for making my day!
Trip Van Noppen, President, Earthjustice
10. Hire a Professional Copywriter
If you don’t have a knack for copywriting, then you might consider hiring a professional copywriter to add a little zing to your thank you letters and emails.
The words in a thank you email play a big part in expressing your gratitude in the right way to your donors, and are crucial to their repeated donations and in retaining them.
Here is a ‘before & after’ direct mail Thank You example. The ‘before’ example was written by the nonprofit. The ‘after’ example was crafted by professional writer Lisa Sargent.
Before donation thank you letter
You don’t want to send the same email to every one of the people who donated. Instead segment your donors. For example:
- If someone has donated for the first time, you want the thank you email to first welcome that new donor and thank him or her.
- If, however, this is a repeat donor, then the thank you email should acknowledge the loyal donor for giving often.
- And finally, if the donor has made a large donation then the thank you email needs to really recognize such a large generous gift.
11. Consider a Thank-you Video
Attaching a thank-you video in your email can go a long way to expressing your gratitude. Here is one created by The University of Washington.
3 Crucial Elements of a Great Donation Thank You Email
1. The thank-you letter is genuine
Your thank-you letter should be genuine and from the heart, and if it is, it will do more than show appreciation for a donation; it will help build a strong relationship between you and your donors.
A well-crafted thank you acknowledgement inspires your donors to keep giving to your organization year after year.
The comforting feeling that you get from being thanked appropriately for making a difference is very satisfying; it can feel like a big hug that can leave you with a warm glow inside.
2. The thank-you letter is prompt
How quickly you respond to your donor’s gift is crucial, because It’s not just the first donation that is key to the survival and growth for your charity, but all the subsequent ones.
Ever wonder why charities have so many lapsed donors on their house list?
One of the key reasons is because these donors were not thanked in a timely manner. Imagine, if someone held the door or an elevator for you. What would you do? You would thank them immediately after stepping in — not wait for 7 or 10 days to do so. So, send a Thank You email the moment you receive their donation. Think of Amazon—they respond the moment you make a purchase with an email thanking you for the order. That’s why they are number 1 in the business.
Thanking donors immediately after they make their first gift, therefore, is a vital part of a donor’s journey.
You should then follow up by mailing donors their tax-receipt, but you can also include a letter or better still a handwritten thank you note or card, which is just as powerful:
3. The thank-you letter is personal
In a survey by Epsilon, 80% of consumers said they would be more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides a personalized experience. While according to Dynamic Yield, 71% of consumers say that a personalized experience would influence their decision to open and read brand emails.
We all love the personal touch of being given our favorite table at a local restaurant or when they remember that we requested a garden-facing room on our last visit. Those are the experiences that we remember that make it more likely for us to return.
Donors also need this personal touch in the communications you send, including follow-ups.
The Difference Between a Donation Thank You Letter and a Donation Thank You Email
• A donation Thank You Letter, while it is still a powerful appreciation conformation but it generally takes weeks to arrive by mail.
• While a donation Thank You, Email is an instant acknowledgement.
• A donation Thank You Letter has a more formal salutation. It generally addresses the donor in the traditional manner, like:Dear Ms. Smith,
• While a donation Thank You Email addresses the donor in a more personal and warmer manner, like:Hi Joan,
• The content of a Thank You letter is more formal too. It generally gets to the point right away, for example:Dear Ms. Smith Thank you so much for your recent donation of $XXX.
• A donation Thank You Email however is more like a conversation. It is more colloquial, for example:Hi Joan, “Wow, you really overwhelmed us with your very generous gift of $XXX. Can’t thank you enough Joan.
The Importance of Follow-ups After the Thank-you Email
Remember when a donor sends you their hard-earned money, they have in a sense adopted your charity, so imagine that sharing the progress, and final outcome of your campaign is akin to a child who comes home to proudly announce an A+ in his or her final exams.
Donors welcome sharing in your joy and pride. It gives them that warm glow that their donation has made a difference in someone’s life. That’s what their donation was all about.
While you’re not asking for donations blatantly, sharing the progress, and final result of your campaign may well lead to another contribution from your donors.
I created a direct mail package for Special Olympics Ontario, in which I asked donors to sponsor one Special Olympics Athlete, Sarah Lynn Lisi, winner of the Ontario Games.
She was now going to the National Summer Special Olympics Games for the first time to represent Ontario. The result: Donors responded by donating over $114,500. A 17.64% response rate.
When Sarah won a gold medal, I wanted to share the good news with the donors who had donated. So, I sent them another direct mail package two months later to only announce the good news. The second package generated an additional $72,000. A 63% response rate this time.
There is great value in sharing your final campaign results with your donors. It conveys to them that they are not just donors but really stakeholders of your nonprofit organization. So good or bad news, if you treat your donors like part of a caring family, they will in return respond in spades.
Thank-you emails can do more than show appreciation for a donation; they can educate, inspire, and ultimately help build a stronger connection to your organization, so donors keeps giving to your organization for years to come.
Donors don’t ask for a thank you, but when your charity does it and does it well, it gives them a sense of belonging and brings them closer to your organization.
The challenge lies in making the ‘thank you’ genuine, timely, and personal.