- Digital communications & marketing
- Donor Engagement
Saying "thank you" is fundamental to retaining and stewarding your nonprofit organization’s donors. With just a little extra thought, your thank-you emails can make a meaningful impact and encourage donors to keep giving.
Let’s explore six best practices for creating donor acknowledgment emails that leave donors feeling appreciated as a vital part of your organization’s team.
1. Send timely thank-you emails
Send thank-you emails no later than 24 hours after a supporter makes a donation to maximize your chances of retaining their recurring support. For the best results, set up automated email responses to send a simple “thank you for your donation” message along with a receipt immediately after donors give.
Aim to send a more in-depth, personal thank-you email within two weeks of the initial donation. This should give your organization plenty of time to create a thoughtful response. The follow-up will remind donors of their contribution and make them feel like their gift was impactful and noticeable. Keep track of when donations come in so all of your donors will know how much their gifts matter.
2. Use recognizable names and addresses
Ensure that donors trust your emails by sending them from a recognizable member of your staff, such as your executive or development director. For example, an email sent and signed by “firstname.lastname@example.org“ feels more personal than one from “email@example.com.” Plus, sending emails from someone higher up in the organization will make donors feel valued.
Make sure your thank-you emails always come from the same person by setting a specific name in the email blast templates in your donor management system. This way, donors will be able to identify and trust that the email comes from your nonprofit.
3. Make your subject line specific
Let donors know even before opening the email that you’re messaging them to express your gratitude. Donors may frequently receive solicitations for donations from other nonprofits, so it’s important to differentiate your email at the subject line level by including words like “thank you,” “grateful,” or “appreciation.”
You can also include the donor’s name in the subject line to show you’re specifically thanking them. This can help distinguish your thank-you email as a genuine and personalized appreciation letter rather than a solicitation or automated response.
4. Personalize your emails
For more compelling thank-you emails, keep the attention on each specific donor and their gift. Donors should feel they are an integral part of your team, not just a source of funding. Include your donor with “we” statements to show them that they’re an active part of your organization.
Use your donor data to personalize emails with their giving dates, amounts, and the specific campaign they supported. For example:
Thank you, Claire, for giving $200 on November 13, 2022. Your generous gift toward the animal wildlife fund will be used to restore the habitats of endangered species in North America.
By including specific data points about their contribution, you’ll show donors that their donation truly made a difference. If a donor has signed up for any other programs like volunteer groups or event committees, this is the perfect opportunity to thank them for their involvement in those activities as well.
Let regular donors know that you haven’t forgotten previous gifts, either. Include a brief line mentioning the total amount or number of donations they’ve given in the past. Make sure to mention how much you value their ongoing support as a true member of your team.
Pro tip: Utilize Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good) to pull specific stats about your donors to personalize your communications.
5. Explain the donor’s impact
Thank-you emails sent immediately following a donation should include details about how your organization plans to use their contributions. For instance, if your organization focuses on animal welfare, mention the exact supplies or location that contribution will support.
If your thank-you email is following up after a project or campaign is finished, share the results of how you used the gift. Give tangible results such as how many people you helped, how many volunteer hours the project involved, or how many supplies donations purchased for the project. This section is a great opportunity to explain the annual impact a donor made, especially if your organization is in a year-end campaign.
Although the work is never done, taking time to celebrate the impact that a donor’s gift made is motivational and encourages giving again in the future. You can also include impact stories or testimonials from beneficiaries to connect donors directly with the people their donations support.
6. Close the email with a personal signature
Closing your thank-you email with a personal touch is just as important as opening with one. End the letter by having a board member, your executive director, or another notable member of your nonprofit’s staff sign the email with their virtual signature.
Make sure that the name of whoever signs the email matches the email address you send it from. For instance, if your executive director signs the thank-you letter, send the letter from their email address.
Conclude your letter by thanking donors for their support and contributions one more time to leave them with a lasting impression of appreciation.
The bottom line about donor acknowledgement emails
To make the most of your donor recognition strategy, don’t let your work end with post-donation gratitude. Send additional thank-you emails on special occasions, such as the anniversary of their first gift, along with regular project updates. With the right amount of personalized thank-you emails, you’ll inspire donors to deepen their involvement with your organization and give again.