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Fundraising tips

A nonprofit’s guide to writing a thank you letter.

May 23, 2023

Why it’s important to send a thank you letter for a donation (or just to say thank you) and how to go about it.

‍It’s not news that saying thank you is good for us. We all know that a simple thank you “builds trust and closer bonds with the people around us”.1 But what is news is that just witnessing a thank you can bring entire groups of people closer together, strengthening relationships and creating a desire to help and connect even more.

When people witness an expression of gratitude, they see that the grateful person is the kind of person who notices when other people do kind things and actually takes the time to acknowledge them—meaning, they’re a good social partner.2
- Sara Algoe

Gratitude is itself a selfless act and that is an attractive quality in any relationship—personal or professional. Simply acknowledging someone’s good deed can be hugely beneficial to your nonprofit, its employees, volunteers and donors. It can help inspire, encourage action, and attract new donors.1

In other words, acknowledging someone else’s generosity isn’t just good manners, it’s good business and we should all be looking for any excuse to say thank you.3

The TL;DR:

There are a few ways your nonprofit can say thank you and all of them are worth taking the time to do.

Send a thank you just because. (Your donors, volunteers and team members will thank you.)

Accomplishing your nonprofit’s mission would be impossible with a team of one. Fighting the good fight is a team effort and a simple thank you will go a long way to reinforcing your relationships with your team members, volunteers, and donors. So, what are you waiting for? Now’s as good a time as any to send an update and a thank you.3

Donors need appreciation too.

Most of us help others because we appreciate being needed and feel more socially valued when we’ve been thanked—not because we feel better or it boosted our self-esteem.4

So, saying thank you to donors and members (whether they donate regularly or not) is a great way to keep them around. It shows them that you noticed the time, effort and money they chose to give to your cause. This simple acknowledgment will reinforce their generous behaviour and likely encourage them to give again.

We are often unsure our help is really wanted and we know that accepting help from others can feel like a failure. The act of saying thank you reassures the helper that their help is valued and motivates them to provide more.4
- Jeremy Dean

Saying thank you will attract new donors and volunteers.

It's helpful to know who the people in our environment are who will do nice things for other people.2
- Sara Algoe

Happiness is contagious. People like to know that they are valued—it motivates and encourages us to keep doing whatever it was we were doing and maybe even do more. People who have seen someone else receiving gratitude are more likely to take an interest in whoever sent the gratitude and join in to help the cause.5

Saying thank you is more important than how your nonprofit says thank you.

Arguably, the most important part of any fundraising campaign is what happens after the donations have come in, the volunteers have gone home, and the participants have checked out. You guessed it: saying thank you to donors, participants, volunteers, everyone.

An actual physical letter, an email, text message, or phone call all work. The medium is important, the actual thank you is even more important.

That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when saying thank you.

Say thank you sooner rather than later.

Send your thank you letter as soon as possible, ideally within one week of the event.

Make it about the donor, volunteer, or team member.

When it comes to a thank you, personalization counts. Try and include as many details about the donor, volunteer, or team member, their contribution(s), and their history as you can. And don’t stop there: make sure to add some information about your nonprofit, the campaign, etc.

Show them how their contribution helped.

If you can, connect the help the recipient gave to the larger work your nonprofit is doing by giving tangible examples of the benefits their contribution has helped realize. Better yet, include some pictures, a video, or a small token of your appreciation.

ChatGPT can help your nonprofit format your thank you letter, email, note, SMS.

A thank you can take a lot of different forms. It can be a formal letter, a card, an email, a thoughtful text message. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to choose the way that will allow to say thank you in a timely fashion, in a way the recipient will appreciate, and that will best display the content you have to share. (A video doesn’t exactly attach all that well to a physical letter.)

In any case, ChatGPT can help you get started. Just make sure to read over its work and personalize the message as much as possible afterwards. There’s nothing worse than a supposedly personal thank you written entirely by AI.

What to include in your nonprofit’s thank you message.

When saying thank you, it’s not only the content that will leave an impression, but how you say what you’d like to say. AKA, be real.

Express genuine gratitude. Let your donors know that they are making a difference, and that you and your entire organization appreciate their contribution. And, keep it as human as possible. After all, your supporters chose to engage with your cause because it struck an emotional chord with them.

Keep learning (our sources):

  1. The Ripple Effects of a Thank You.
  2. A new perspective on the social functions of emotions: Gratitude and the witnessing effect.
  3. The Importance Of Saying Thank You In The Workplace.
  4. Why 'Thank You' Is More Than Just Good Manners.
  5. The Benefits Of Gratitude: Why Saying Thank You Matters.