10 ways to make you donor thank yous crackle with power and joy

We spend a lot of time perfecting our asking. How much do we spend on our thanking?

Thanking well might matter as much or more than asking. It’s a key ingredient for turning a donation from a transaction to a relationship.

Here are some great tips from The Storytelling Non-profit, at 10 Tips for Writing a Better Donor Thank You Letter:

  1. Personalize as much as possible. Your thank you letter is a message specifically to one donor. That means you must (really must) use their name and their gift amount. And anything else you can come up with that’s about them.
  2. Lead with a story when you write a donor thank you letter. Telling a story that shows them the kind of amazing thing their giving helped make possible is the main thing that should be happening in your thank you letter. That’s how you show impact: with story, not stats!
  3. Find your non-profit’s unique voice. It’s easy to fall into a formal businesslike tone. But that doesn’t sound human. Write like a person connecting with a person.
  4. Be genuine when thanking donors.
  5. Write short sentences. Readability is the ultimate form of politeness and respect for your reader. Writers who think they look smart with complex copy are really just the equivalent of public speakers who mumble. It’s rude. And people stop paying attention. See the next tip…
  6. Use short words. As George Orwell said, never use a long word when a short word will do. It’s the combination of short sentences and short words that make writing easy — and more pleasurable — to read.
  7. Use the word “you” often. Remember that a thank you message is about the person you’re thanking. It’s not about your organization. Too many thank you letters are really just self-congratulations letters. That doesn’t work in our life relationships, and it doesn’t work in fundraising.
  8. Be specific about donor impact. Remember that the donor gave to make something happen. Make it clear that something really did happen, and it was amazing! Don’t just roll out abstractions about “making a difference.”
  9. Be uplifting. Even if the donation is small, make it clear that it really matters!
  10. Paint an inspiring vision for donors. Many donors are haunted by the idea that no matter what they give, nothing changes. Show them that is not the case.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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