5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Woman holding a coffee mug with thank you written on it in chalk.
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Gratitude is powerful. 

And the mailed thank you letter continues to be the most useful way to express that gratitude to donors.

Even today, in our digital world, people appreciate a paper thank you that arrives in their mailboxes. Why? Because it stands out. Even people who always donate online love getting a thank letter by mail.

Email thank yous should be sent immediately when a donor gives online, but that email message will not resonate with a donor the way a paper thank you will. Email is ephemeral; a mailed thank you will more likely stick around, mentally and physically.

Penelope Burke, one of the most esteemed researchers of philanthropy, says the best thank you letters are "donor-centered." Promptness and a unique message mark the best ones Burke says.  

Burke's Executive Summary of her Donor Survey is a trove of information about donors - why they give, why they don't. For instance, many donors find over-solicitation and premiums such as small gifts more irritating than helpful in encouraging continued giving.

Also, only 61 percent of donors who responded to a disaster fundraising appeal said they received a thank you letter. These findings suggest that a sincere thank you letter means more than a token gift or another solicitation. Also, even potential one-time givers during an emergency still expect a charity to send a thank you letter.

Do you want to stand out in your donor's mind? A thank you letter does that, simply because not all charities send them. Mailing a thank you letter could give your organization an edge in a world of charity competition.

Thank you letters take time (as do well-done email thank you messages), but donors consistently respond well when a charity takes the time to say thank you often and fully.

Thank you letters and notes are at their best when they make donors feel appreciated and let them know how they helped.

How Can You Make Your Thank You Letters Mean More Than Just Words on the Page?

Tell stories, especially the story of one person, child, or an animal whose life was made better through the donor's help.

Ideally, thank you letters should not be generic letters, set up and then forgotten. Don't let your thank-yous become routine and dull. Unless you have a huge number of donors, your charity should try to make each thank you letter unique, so that the donor knows that letter was meant specifically for her. Follow the ten rules of thank you letter writing, from personalization to inviting more engagement.

Even when there are so many thank yous to be written that you can't keep up, consider writing several types of thank you letters for groups of donors. Consider the kinds of donors you have, such as first-time donors, consecutive-year donors, and monthly donors. 

For longtime donors or donors who gave a lot, consider ways of saying thanks beyond the letter. You could email a thank you video, send a bouquet of flowers with a hand-written thank you note, mail a postcard with a photo of the people the donor helped, or deliver a personal gift that you know the donor will love. Consider having a thank-you party with volunteers writing handwritten notes.

If you want donors to give, again and again, show them your gratitude by taking the time to say thanks creatively and by personalizing those thank you letters and notes. For your letter writing, use these examples to spark your imagination.

Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

You can use this sample as a model to write thank you letters for donors. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.

thank you letter sample for donors
©TheBalance 2018

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Create a picture in your donor's mind. Help her "see" the people she helps.

Thank You Letter # 1 (Text Version)

Dear Deborah, 

Thanks to you, Michael and his sister, Janet, celebrated Michael's 9th birthday with cake and balloons in a safe and loving place. They are no longer scared and love having their very own rooms.

Thank you for your recent generous gift of $100 to Children's Residential Services of Greater Boston. Your willingness to help displaced children in our community weather the crises in their lives makes all the difference for children just like Michael and Janet.

Thanks to you, we have provided 250 children just this year with a place to live, learn, and feel safe.

Your donation will help purchase new computers for our kids over the next six months. The children are eager for the new computers so that they can do their homework and communicate with friends and family.

The computers are part of our Excellence in Service Campaign that will make our home even nicer for Michael, Janet, and their new friends. You and other people like you have brought us closer to our goal of $50,000 for that campaign.

We would love to give you a tour so you can meet some of the 15 staff and 50 children who are now with us. We love to show off our comfy home, and the kids enjoy meeting visitors. One or two might even show you what they can do with their new computers.

Janet Teebs, our development director, is always available to set up a visit for you or to answer any questions you may have. Don't hesitate to call her at 520-446-0912, or email her at janetteebs@CRS.com.

We would love to keep you in the loop with our emails and newsletter. You can sign up for those at our site, www.crc.org.

Again, thank you for all you do for our kids. You are a part of their lives too.


Malcolm Wexter
Executive Director

P.S. We depend on volunteers to help us. If you would like to share your time, just let Janet know, and she will ask our volunteer coordinator to get in touch. We have frequent introductions to our work for volunteers. We would be delighted to see you there.

If one story is good, are more stories better? Well, not better but just as good, as this example of a thank you letter shows.

Thank You Letter # 2 (Text Version)

Dear James,

First, let me just say, thank you!

Your recent donation of $150 means that you understand just how valuable riding a horse can be to a child with cognitive or physical challenges.

But let me tell you what our services at Therapeutic Riding of Atlanta mean to some of the children who come to our classes.

  • One little boy with severe cerebral palsy learned how to sit up tall on his horse. His mother was so proud and said, "I never thought he'd be able to do so well. If he can do this, what else can he do?"
  • A young girl who had never said a word suddenly said "go" to her horse.
  • Because she built her confidence by riding, one little girl is no longer afraid to be on the playground swings.
  • A child who had trouble walking by himself started doing so after only a few times on a horse.
  • A young girl was able to speak louder in her classroom because she had become stronger and her respiration better from riding her horse.

Although these victories may seem small to the average person, you know that they are not. That's why you gave, and why the kids we serve and we are full of gratitude for your generosity.

Donors like you help make our therapeutic riding possible, ensure that our horses are well fed, housed, and trained, and guarantee that we can offer scholarships to children and their families who could not, otherwise, afford these life-enhancing activities.

We want you to be an active member of our community too. Please visit our website at www.tra.org to sign up for our emails and newsletters. And do watch for invitations to our events such as Horsin' Around, Hearts & Horses, and the special tours we offer all year round.

We are volunteer intense and would love for you to experience the joy of helping a child ride a horse. Just indicate your interest at our website or call volunteer coordinator, Sandy Converse, at xxx-xxxx. Volunteers get to wear some great t-shirts too!

Again, thank you! We love your support.

Best always,

Lilly Anderson
Executive Director

P.S. As a special thanks, we will be adding you to our exclusive circle of friends and listing your name in our annual report and our newsletter. Please stop by our ranch soon so we can say thanks in person.

Mailing thank you letters to donors creates a lasting bond that will bring in funds year after year. Reconnect the donor with your mission, mention your specific programs, and restate the need. Let the giver know just what his or her donation did, the results it made possible.

Thank You Letter # 3 (Text Version)

Dear Frank and Louise,

This week, thanks to your help, we moved Tom and Francis, a senior couple in their 80s, into a bright, well-furnished apartment in a community devoted to the health and happiness of our older citizens.

No longer isolated in a hard-to-reach walk up in a high-rise building, Tom and Francis now have easy access to the services they need. Plus, they will receive two meals a day and participate in healthy and fun activities ranging from exercise classes to community field trips.

Thank you for your thoughtful donation of $250 to the Wildthorne County Agency on Aging. Your donation will make sure that older people in our county, such as Tom and Francis, thrive.

As you know, more than 30 percent of our seniors live on small, fixed incomes. The Agency on Aging provides meals, rent subsidies, counseling, recreation, and health care for many of them.

Because of you, we can keep helping older people in distress. Donations from caring people like you help us make up for cuts in our state and local government funding.

Truthfully, we could not do this without you. We, and those we serve, sincerely appreciate your generosity.


Merry Baker
Development Director

P.S. Please call me at any time at xxxxx if you have questions, would like an update on what we're doing, or wish to volunteer at one of our sites. We would love to meet you in person so we can say thanks, face-to-face.

I loved this warm letter from Best Friends Animal Society for my monthly donation. Monthly donors deserve only the best. Enough monthly donors can propel your charity's growth and well being. Make sure you thank them well and often.

Thank You Letter # 4 (Text Version)

Dear Joanne,

The healing starts with a tiny spark a glimmer of hope in soft, soulful eyes.

And for homeless pets with serious injuries who come to Best Friends, the hope, and the healing are all because of you.

Thank you so very much for your recent donation of $____ to Best Friends Animal Society and our Guardian Angel Program!

Your kind gift is already creating miracle recoveries for the special needs pets of Best Friends. You're helping give these grateful strays the time and attention they need to heal, with state-of-the-art tests, lifesaving surgeries, gentle rehabilitation therapies and more. Plus plenty of love from Best Friends staff and volunteers!

We'll share the stories of the extra-special friends being helped by your generous gift, in coming editions of our regular newsletter and in Best Friends Magazine. If you have any questions in the meantime, give us a call at XXX-XXXX.

With best wishes and our sincere gratitude,

Gregory Castle
Best Friends Animal Society

P.S. Follow their progress, as these furry and feathered friends are transformed by your love and support, in the Guardian Angel section of the Best Friends website at www.bestfriends.org. Thanks again!

Are you mailing a thank you letter to donors who gave during your Giving Day? Don't let Giving Day donors get away after one gift This letter from the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) reminds the donor of when and how she gave and includes results and a story about a particular person who was helped.

Thank You Letter # 5 (Text Version)

Dear Joanne,

We did it! Thanks to your generous support, ICRW raised over $____ during the Do More 24 giving day challenge. Your gift provides critical support for research and advocacy that address the root causes of inequality to ensure women and girls can reach their full potential.

Women and girls are community leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and so much more. For the last forty years, research has shown that investing in women and girls has ripple effects through a community.

Take Akina*, a young woman in Kenya who works for BURN, a clean cookstoves factory and social enterprise business supported by Acumen, a non-profit that invests in companies and ideas that aim to tackle poverty. Before BURN, Akina had never worked in a factory, but thanks to their investment in women, she has moved up to become a supervisor. Her wages pay for her younger sister's education and the transportation costs for her brother to commute to his job.

Acumen is using ICRW's research to understand better how integrating women throughout their social enterprise business models can not only make businesses more successful but also improve the lives of low-income customers, including women.

On behalf of all of us at ICRW, thank you again for participating in Do More 24 and for your generous gift of $__ to support women and girls around the globe!


Gretchen Hutula
Senior Director, Business Development

P.S. Be sure to visit blog.icrrw.org to read more stories like Akina's.

*Name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Article Sources

  1. Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. "The Burk Donor Survey: How to Raise More Money in a Changing Giving Environment, December 2018," Download "Free Executive Survey," Page 13. Accessed Sept/27/2019. 

  2. Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. "The Burk Donor Survey: How to Raise More Money in a Changing Giving Environment, December 2018," Download "Free Executive Survey.," Page 13. Accessed Sept/27/2019.