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Donor appreciation: The complete donor thank-you guide

April 30, 2022
As the adult female nonprofit smiles, she shakes hands with a donor before the park cleanup begins. Learn how to build donor relationships like this in this donor appreciation guide.

A solid thank-you message is an important part of every nonprofit organization’s donor relations strategy. In this guide, we’ll cover thank-you message basics and creative ways to express your gratitude. Let’s begin.

Who gets a thank-you?

If you’re wondering who you should thank, the list is easy: every donor. The type of message you send varies depending on the donor and their gift. Here are some basic tips that apply to nearly every situation in which you’re thanking a supporter:

  • Thank donors multiple times. Thank recurring donors as often as you see fit. Just remember to listen to donors’ preferences. If the donor provides feedback about the frequency of communication they’re receiving, respect their input.
  • Give more than a letter. Thank-you letters and cards are a meaningful way to show appreciation, but some donations, like major gifts, require going the extra mile. 
  • Celebrate first-time donors. If a first-time donor is welcomed with a stellar message of thanks, they may return and become loyal supporters.
  • Take leadership over thank-you messages. No matter who was involved in the donation process, have your leadership reach out to donors on behalf of your organization. 

Adjust your donor thank-you strategy based on your relationship with the donor. A thank you message for a long-time recurring donor should be a bit different from how you show appreciation to a new donor. 

Thank-you letter contents

Craft your thank-you messages to appeal to your recipients' interests. 

You can appeal to most donors by providing specific answers to the following questions in your thank-you messages:

  • What did your organization achieve with the donor’s contribution?
  • How did the donor’s gift help you fulfill your purpose?
  • What personal details about the donor can you include to make their thank-you letter more meaningful?
  • How can you show each donor the impact of their gift?

Your thank-you messages should make donors feel valued, important, and personally highlighted for their efforts. 

Qualities of a thank-you letter

As you craft the content of your thank-you messages, consider how your tone and language choices can build a relationship with supporters and establish your nonprofit’s brand image.


Being personal, warm, and authentic with your donors is critical. Take the time to customize your thank-you letters to make them feel more personal and relevant to each donor. One way to do this is to segment your donors based on their gifts. For example, you might create a segment for recurring donors, and when creating appreciation messages for them, you reference the value of their reliable, long-term support.

Another way to create a personal connection is to pick up the phone and tell donors how important their support really is. Investing the time to be personal pays off by showing your donors you value them as individuals, helping to build long-term relationships that may lead to future support.


Show each supporter exactly how their donation is making a difference. You can do this in several ways:

  • Tell donors what you did with their money.
  • Invite donors to spend time with you and tour your facility.
  • Introduce donors to members of your team.

There’s nothing like having an unforgettable experience to make a cause feel tangible. Let your donors get hands-on experience with your nonprofit and become bonded to your cause.


Use thank-you letters as an opportunity to be creative and connect with your donors. Plan to do something that will differentiate your organization. For example, you might use photos or videos of your work to illustrate your organization’s efforts. You can also incorporate testimonials from volunteers or beneficiaries to creatively thank supporters for their contributions. 


Donor appreciation is a celebration of everything your supporters have done for your cause. As such, make sure your thank-you messages are donor-centric. List the accomplishments they’ve made possible and put them front and center in your outreach. 

How to personalize your thank-you messages

To build relationships, each of your thank-you messages should be as personalized to the donor as possible. Follow these four steps to target your thank-you messages to each recipient:

  • Understand the results of your campaign. Reflect on the overall impact of donations made during your campaign to provide supporters with an overview of your campaign’s results. That information reinforces that your donors are part of a greater community working toward a common purpose.
  • Keep your outcomes in mind. Share your nonprofit’s goals for the future in your thank-you letters. This can encourage donors to stick around to see what they can help your organization accomplish next.
  • Equip yourself with the right tools. Use a tool to organize donor information. This can help you analyze trends and easily store, sort, and retrieve details about each donor to better personalize their thank-you letters. 

As always, remember to keep donor preferences in mind and be receptive to supporters’ feedback. You may end up changing your approach depending on donor involvement opportunities or responses to your appreciation methods to better connect with your unique audience.

Improve your thank-you strategy today

As you consider how to improve your current thank-you strategy, develop a plan for how to approach future thank-yous. Creating guidelines for donor thank-you messages can keep each message consistent and make every donor feel equally valued. Develop your guidelines today to improve all thank-you messages going forward.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
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