5 Steps to Thanking Donors So They’ll Never Forget You

Giving makes us feel good.

That’s why we do it. And if you want donors to keep doing it, you need to keep the feeling going.

You begin that process with a great thank you.

1. Craft something meaningful – to the donor

This is not an opportunity to praise your organization or its work. This is your chance to praise the donor.

You cannot be too effusive. Seriously. Your dignity is not at stake here. Show them the love – and mean it.

Here’s some step by step advice for creating a great thank you letter.

2. Talk about outcomes, not outputs

Donors don’t care how hard you work or how busy you’ve been. They care about what they can achieve when they send you money.

I have received thank you letters that spend three paragraphs describing how tough the work their staff does is. The conditions, the physical labor… what heroes they are!

So tone deaf.

Instead, talk about what your organization and the donor are changing, improving, stopping – together.

3. Recognize they’re your partners

If you want to involve donors more closely with your work, you need to treat them not as sources of income, but as partners in the mission.

Donors are people who have done something terrific. So when they give, the focus should be on them.

If you can make them feel really involved, you will be taking an important step toward building a solid donor relationship. They may not want to talk to you. They may not want to volunteer or attend a rally. They may want to simply send you money from time to time. But treat them like partners – because you cannot have too many partners.

4. Keep the IRS in the background

Yes, you’ll want to include in the letter the amount and date of the gift. But tax language is boring. And secondary to gratitude.

So put the IRS disclaimer at the bottom of the letter, not in the body. It’s not something your donor is eager to read – it’s something they may need to keep around for tax time.

5. Keep it personal!

Have you ever gotten a “Dear Friend” thank you letter? How warm and fuzzy did that feel?

If someone can reach into their wallet and share some of their hard-earned bucks with you, you certainly can take the time to acknowledge that personally.

A personal salutation. Their gift amount, date and reason for giving. (So yes, you have to pay attention – if they gave to save the lions and your generic letter talks about gorillas, you need to personalize that copy.)

A personal note. Handwritten. By the most important person at your organization. That note can be all of “Thank you so much!” But write it, in ink. And sign it, for real.

Does it take more time to thank you donors properly? You bet it does.

Is it worth it?


John Haydon