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The 4 Elements of a Perfect Donor Thank You Note

Most donor acknowledgement messages follow this familiar template:

Dear [donor name],

Thank you for your generous donation of $[donation amount] to [nonprofit name].

Your donation is making a difference. Because of your $[amount] donation, we are able to [impact of donation].

[this paragraph usually gives a general description of what the organization does]

Thank you again for your contribution! [nonprofit name] relies on the gifts of donors like you to make a difference.

[name and title]

How boring! 90% of donors say that the “thank you for your donation” email is the single most important communication they receive from a nonprofit. Why waste your greatest opportunity to build a fantastic donor relationship on an uninspiring thank you note?

(Side note: if you’re sending a thank you note at all, you’re doing something right. If you’re not thanking your donors, well, you should start now!)

The 4 Elements of a Perfect Donor Thank You Note

1. Focus on the impact, not the money.

If you’re leading with the dollar amount, your email will feel like a receipt and will most likely be ignored until tax season. You should be sending automated tax receipts separately. The purpose of this email is to make your donors feel connected to your cause.

Also, by talking repeatedly about money, you’re building a very transactional relationship with your donor. Don’t you want to build a relationship based on making a difference together?

Instead, try leading with the impact the donation will have. And be specific: “Because of you, we were able to foster 12 abandoned puppies in rural Texas” is better than “Your donation helped save puppies.”

2. Don’t make it about yourself.

While you do want to educate your new supporters about your mission, resist the urge to talk about yourself too much. This is about your donors and the amazing thing they just did – they gave their own money to your cause! Let’s make them feel like the hero they are.

You can accomplish this by explaining how their support helps you grow. Here’s an example:

“The support of donors like you allows us to provide shelter, supplies, and meals to more than 60 women and children in Carroll County. Your donation will help us as we expand to provide services to 100 people in need next month.”

3. Do your research.

Trust me, your donors will notice if you keep sending the same basic email after their 10th donation. If they’re a repeat donor, thank them for their continued support. Tell them what you’ve been up to since their last donation.

Take a look at any notes that were included with the donation. If it was made in memoriam of a loved one, be sure to thank them for that.

Finally, make sure you know the donor’s history with your organization. If they’re a past volunteer or a friend of one of your board members, they won’t appreciate being spoken to like a total stranger.

4. Send it quickly.

This one is so important! Some sources online recommend that you send the thank you note within two weeks of receiving the donation. I think that’s too long. Shoot for 24 hours and definitely keep it within one week.

Need more donor thank you inspiration? Check out 7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails.

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