This post is the fourth in a series designed to teach the art and fundamentals of writing for nonprofits. These posts are based on the “Writing for Nonprofits” Guide from the Greater Giving Fundraising Excellence Series. Each new post focuses on an individual type of communication or relationship, and how best to tailor your writing to it. Read additional articles: Writing For Nonprofits Series
I thought about breaking this up into multiple posts—one about how to thank donors, one on thanking volunteers, staff members, etc. But I remembered that this series is about writing, and voice, and in these ways I think that all thank you letters are one in the same.
With every thank you, whether you’re thanking someone for a monetary donation, or a donation of time and energy, you want to convey the same things: gratitude, sincerity, appreciation, and humility.
Your perfect thank you expresses sincere gratitude.
I know it sounds obvious, but true gratitude comes from the heart. It has a sound, a look, a feeling. Sincere gratitude comes from understanding why people have joined in supporting your mission, and appreciating the contribution each of them make toward accomplishing that mission.
We see a lot of phrases like this in donor thank you letters:
“On behalf of our organization, we would like to thank you for your donation. Your contribution, and the contributions of others like you, go a long way to supporting our mission.”
These sorts of form openings are bland; they obviously don’t radiate from the heart or from a place of genuine appreciation. It gives the sense that the writer felt obligated to send the note.
Anything that sounds like a form letter won’t give your donor or volunteer that valuable feeling of being individually appreciated. Instead, it comes across like they are another line item on your list.
True gratitude requires acknowledging exactly what this donor has contributed that meant so much to you; or what this volunteer has done that made such a difference. How much did your donor donate? What outstanding job did the volunteer do? And how has that contribution helped to achieve your mission?
Try an opening like this, instead:
“From the bottoms of our hearts, thank you for your generous donation of $50. It was critical to our Keep the Water Clean initiative, where we cleaned up over a mile of river. As a donor to our organization, you’re a part of something really special—you’re a part of our community. And you make everything we do possible.”
The perfect thank you demonstrates why it all matters.
When people feel like they’ve made a difference—when they can see the tangible return of their donations and hard work—it inspires them to come back, to give again. So be specific in your thank you about how a contribution has helped achieve your mission or goal. If you can, tell a story about the impact it’s had!
Jill joined the Greater Giving team over 10 years ago, bringing her experience with event planning, marketing, customer success and copywriting. Her deep knowledge of fundraising trends and challenges are incorporated into many of the valuable fundraising resources Greater Giving provides to nonprofits worldwide. She is equally passionate about volunteering and yoga; and is a certified volunteer instructor who teaches family yoga.