Thanking Your Donors

by Christopher Heinfeld, Senior Associate

Posted on February 17, 2015

Every nonprofit should thank their donors, right? It’s not only polite and courteous (and may be required by the IRS), but thank you letters can be a very smart and witty way to encourage additional donations. According to a Burk Donor Survey, approximately 65% of first-time donors do not make a second donation. Why, you may ask; it’s probably because they did not receive a prompt and meaningful thank you letter that also detailed how their donation was used. According to the same survey, approximately 80% of donors indicated that they would make a second donation if they received a thank you letter.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits do not send thank you letters or send thank you letters that resemble transaction receipts from their financial reporting software. Below is a list of great ways to enhance your thank you letters, as well as encouraging future donations and separating yourself from other nonprofits:

  • Write it as if it is a greeting card – be short, friendly, warm, and personal; not business-like 
  • Consider a different opening other than “thank you for” – having creative openings make it more personal to the donor (ex. “your donation crossed my desk today and … “)
  • Share how the donation will be used – give a specific description on how your organization is planning on using their donation
  • Share recent progress related to the donation – give a brief update on the progress your organization has made because of their donation
  • Offer an invitation to a free “event” – encourage supporters to continue to donate through invitations to free events; or invite donors to see what their donation has done
  •  Change who the letter is from – have board members, or even individuals who benefit from the support provided by the donation, write or help write the thank you letters
  •  Include photos with your letter – enriched your letters by adding photos that relate to the donation
  • Send a postcard or video message instead of a letter – with the advancement of technology, photos (especially from events) can easily be turned into postcards, and video thank yous or clips from events can easily be created and attached to emails
  • Send your thank you promptly – ideally, send it within two or three days; no later than a week

In addition to the items listed above, there are several websites that touch on this topic and give examples of creative thank you letters. When you write, create, and send your thank you letters this year, keep in mind not only the above items, but also the IRS guidelines for donations received and what thank you letters are required to include. For more information on these guidelines, visit the IRS website.