How to write the perfect donor acknowledgement email

How to Write the Perfect Donor Acknowledgement Letter

Writing a great thank you letter to your donors is easier than you think.

What is a donor thank you letter?

Everyone appreciates a thank you for good deeds. You send thank you letters to family members who give you birthday gifts and to potential employers after a successful interview.

When someone has donated funds to your cause or nonprofit, that warrants a thank you letter acknowledging the donation.

A letter can be as simple as a “thank you for your donation,” but is that how you would want to be thanked after donating potentially hundreds of dollars to someone? Probably not.

You want it to be personal and affirm that you as an individual made a difference for this cause.

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Why do you need to send one? 

To put it simply, you want donors to keep on donating.

To ensure that they continue to support your cause, it’s good practice to send a “donor-specific” letter showing your appreciation of their individual contribution to your cause.

This is the key to retaining donors – making sure they know that they made a difference, no matter how small the donation.

Additionally, if a donation reaches a certain amount ($250 or more), you may be required by law to send a letter proving a donation occurred. You can find more information about the specifics here

Even if the donation is less than $250, some people just like to have an acknowledgment that their gift was received and not lost in the mail.

There are certain elements you may want to include in your letter to effectively get your message across.

Here are some tips and tricks to help get you started:

Do It Quickly

As soon as you receive a donation, it’s important to send out that thank you letter as soon as possible.

Sending one immediately shows that your organization is efficient and on top of things. Waiting more than a week to send a thank you lends to the idea that donations aren’t your top priority and that you can’t take the time to acknowledge them.

Generally, sending letters within two days is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Use Personal Language

Make sure to address your letter with a salutation to the specific individual who donated.

If you use a fill-in-the-blank method to avoid rewriting the entire letter, be sure to personalize before sending it.

There’s nothing worse than receiving a letter addressed “To [donor’s name].” Sending a donor-centered thank you letter that looks like a cut and paste job would probably do more damage than good.

Make sure to emphasize the recipient’s role in achieving your organization’s goals.

While it’s important to mention your nonprofit and the great work it’s doing, remember that this isn’t the main goal of your letter.

Appreciate Small and Big Gifts

No matter how small the donation, be sure to show your appreciation. Some people can’t donate more than a few dollars at a time, which may be a large percentage of their income.

Who knows, they may send more in the future as they grow more comfortable with your organization. Every little bit counts.

Reference Past Gifts

If a donor has given money to your organization previously, it’s always good to reference this to show that you remember them and their contribution to your cause.

Donors want to know that their gifts are remembered and appreciated. Even if they’ve only volunteered up to this point, be sure to mention that as well in your letter. 

Reconfirm the Gift’s Purpose

A great way to show that a donation is making a difference is by discussing specific events or causes it contributed towards.

For example, if a shelter was able to save a dog and find it a new home thanks to the extra $100 donation your group received, mention it in the letter. You don’t have to go into great detail about every little thing you put the money towards, just give a general summary.

Even if the amount wasn’t enough to impact any particular event, reiterate your organization’s goals and how donations are helping you reach those objectives.

Once a donor sees that donations are making an impact, they may decide to donate more next time. If they donated something other than money (like volunteering or lending out space for an event), mention that as well to further personalize it.

Depending on the formality of your letter, it may also be a good idea to include photos of your group in action. 

Have Leadership Sign the Letter

Most people assume that letters are formulaic and reused for each donor, so personally handwriting a letter is ideal. 

However, even writing a small part of the letter is a good way to show that you personally reviewed and wrote it. Even better, have the founder or someone in charge of the group sign it.

This lets the donor know that no matter how busy your organization’s leader is, they’ll make time for even the smallest contributor.

Now that you know how to effectively write a donor acknowledgment letter, there are a few more things you can include to encourage communication with your donors.

  • For example, invite the donor to actively participate in your organization by visiting your offices or attending a volunteer event.
  • You may also want to include the best way to contact your organization if they have questions that weren’t answered in the letter. You don’t want to give the idea that you’re a big intimidating nonprofit that is impossible to reach.

Being approachable and gracious is the best way to keep donors happy and committed to your cause.