Why You Should Mail Thank You Letters to Online Donors

Online Donors Still Love Thank You Letters by Mail

Thank you by mail
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Do you send a thank you letter by mail after receiving a donation online?

Donors who give online (and there are more of them all the time), do get an emailed thank you. Your online donation system should generate one on the spot.  

But, here's the catch. That emailed thank you just isn't enough. You need to also mail a thank you letter to make your donor feel appreciated.

Making a Memory

Ludis Herrera, Manager of Development Operations at Boston Medical Center, in a discussion on LinkedIn said,

"At BMC, we have a generic email sent out to our donors immediately after an online donation is made (this would be the receipt). This way our donors feel secure that their donation went through the website. However, we do send a paper acknowledgment as well in the mail to show our thanks and to make it more personable....Other organizations might see this as a waste of paper, but our donors appreciate it."

Snail mail is often maligned, but who doesn't look forward to going to the mailbox? Lots of donors save their thank you letters, put them on the fridge or pin them to bulletin boards.  A mailed letter "sticks" in a way that an emailed thank you just doesn't. This is especially true for first-time givers.

And guess who is giving online? First-time donors. A Blackbaud study of multi-channel fundraising found that new donors often make their first gift online. Unfortunately, these donors have the highest attrition rates. They don't come back.

But, what do donors who give just one more time do? They become committed donors, volunteers, or monthly givers.

Thanking a donor, by mail, is your best shot at making this conversion.

When Is the Donation Large Enough?

Can't afford this much thanking right off the bat?  Then consider giving the royal treatment to those who give more than the minimum. But keep the threshold pretty low. You just never know when a small donor will turn out to be your next major donor

A Mailed Thank You Is Just Another Channel in Your Campaign

Multichannel fundraising is a hot topic, though no one talks about multichannel thanking. Consider thanking by snail mail just another channel for your campaign. Many people who receive your direct mail appeal likely respond by going to your website and donating. It's a matter of convenience, not dislike of the mail.

Are you thanking your online donors with a mailed thank you in addition to the online one? If not, consider doing it. I give small amounts to many charities as part of my research on fundraising best practices. When I give online, sometimes I get a mailed thank you but often not. Plus, all too often, that mailed thank you comes after a long wait. 

But when I get a mailed thank you on time and that stars me, the donor, I'm thrilled. See an example of one such thank you on the next page.


Could This Be a Perfect Thank You Letter?

Food Bank Volunteers
Steve Debenport/Vetta/Getty Images

This is a thank you letter I got from my local food bank. I had given a small amount online and already received an emailed receipt/thank you. This mailed letter came within 10 days! It is warm, explains how my donation will help, and how the food bank is making my community better. I love the quote at the beginning. This letter turned me from a one-time donor to a monthly one.

Dear Joanne, 

Author Henry James once said, "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind."

Joanne, your kindness knows no bounds and, for that, we are eternally grateful.

Your generous gift of _____ is improving lives in Southern Arizona. Where there was once an empty table, a family now sits together and enjoys a meal. What was once a desolate backyard, now features a small garden plot where a young boy learns about healthy eating. And, that homeless woman who had once felt so hopeless, finds encouragement in the warmth of a comforting meal.

Your kindness has made these things possible, and we thank you for your thoughtful support.

We are proud to be your partner in the fight against hunger in _____.  More than 16,000 people benefit from our emergency food assistance program each month, while our home gardening team works to build gardens for families with financial hardships. Simultaneously, we provide meals for our homeless community, both at our  Community Kitchen and at partner organizations across town.

Giving is rooted in kindness, and you have shown us that _____ is a kind community. Thank you for caring, and thank you for giving, but most importantly, thank you for being kind.


Michael McDonald
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Summer is quickly approaching and, with it, higher costs of food and utilities as children are out of school. Please help parents in need get through this season, which can be their most difficult.