As a nonprofit, you know that donors are the lifeblood of your mission. That’s why saying “thank you” is not just courteous. It is vital. It strengthens relationships, encourages future giving, and helps you and your mission thrive. Let’s look at five ways to say “thank you” to your donors, not just during special events but at all times of the year.

  1. Give donors the credit. Give donors credit for the excellent work you are doing. Instead of saying, “Your gift will help our organization feed hungry children,” for example, say, “Your gift will feed hungry children.” This subtle shift may be the most powerful thing you can do in your “thank you” letters.
  2. Tell stories. When you share the impact of donors’ gifts through the eyes of changed lives, this speaks more loudly than a mere “thank you” alone. Tell mission-impact stories using an informal, friendly tone and incorporate powerful storytelling images. Keep it short. Hit the highlights so even busy donors see their impact loud and clear.
  3. Show them that they have made a wise investment. Share specifically how the gifts will be used: “Your gift will go directly to…” When possible, include a personal message from someone who directly benefited from the gift.
  4. Be accurate in the details. Ensure the donor’s name is correct—and there are no spelling or grammatical errors. When possible, have someone higher up in the organization, such as the executive director or director of development, sign the letter. (Remember that you are just saying, “Thank you.” Don’t use this as an opportunity to ask for another gift.)
  5. Open the door to a more extensive engagement process. Although you are thanking donors, you are nurturing them, too. So keep it up! Send them ongoing impact reports and personal letters written by those benefitting from your work. Invite them to donor celebrations like cookouts or tours.

Sending a great thank you letter is the first and most crucial step of the donor engagement process. It increases donor retention and creates a sustainable base of highly engaged supporters who renew their gifts year after year and feel so connected to your mission that they are likely to share it with others.