4 Simple Ways to Thank Your Donors and Create a Big Impact on Year-End Giving

Thanking your donors can impact donor retention and future giving. Here are a few easy messaging tips for donor thank yous. You might be surprised at what a difference these tiny changes can make.

4 Simple Ways to Thank Your Donors and Create a Big Impact on Year-End Giving
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

As a nonprofit, your donors are one of your greatest assets because you couldn’t do your life-changing work without them. That’s why showing your appreciation for their support is so important. And thanking your donors can actually impact your donor retention.

It's great to ask for financial support from previous donors; they already know who you are and what you do and have trusted you with their money. This means you have much less convincing to do. They already believe in your mission and want to see you succeed. Keeping previous donors engaged with your mission will continue to grow your funding and make it more reliable.

If you want to keep donors engaged, all it takes is showing gratitude with a simple reminder of how they make your mission possible.

Why Thanking Your Donors Impacts Future Giving

When someone thanks you for a kind gesture, how does that make you feel? Most people would answer “loved,” “appreciated,” and the like. When you feel loved and appreciated by someone, how does that impact the way you think and feel about that person?

Now, let’s contrast this: When was the last time you did something nice for someone, and the person ignored you? How did that make you feel?

Of course, our intention should be to give without needing anything in return. But when you give from the kindness of your heart and receive a cold shoulder in return, you might hesitate the next time an opportunity to give arises. That’s human nature.

The same goes for your donor base.

When donors give to your cause, they are doing a selfless act of kindness. They go out of their way to do something not required of them, simply because they want to. So when you thank your donors for giving, you're acknowledging that kindness. You're allowing them to grow a positive association with you and increase the likelihood they will give again.

When people feel good about something, they often choose to stick around. 😊

4 Easy Messaging Tips for Donor Thank Yous

Ready to show your donors how thankful you are to them? It's not that hard, and it doesn't need to turn into this complicated campaign. You don't need to overthink it. Most often, all it takes is a little pivot from what you're already doing. Here are a few of the easiest ways you can make sure you're thanking your donor base.

1. Personalize your message

Adding a personal touch makes your recipient feel valued. So you want to use the donor’s name in the salutations whenever possible. If you use an email marketing tool like Mailchimp, you can auto-populate first names by using merge tags. Personalizing can get tricky if you’re sending a physical letter, but there are online tools to make this easier, such as Handwrytten.

Speaking of letters, hand-written notes go a long way. When was the last time you received a handwritten card in the mail? How did it make you feel? Signatures can make a difference, too. Rather than using a typed signature at the end, take a few extra moments to include a handwritten signature under your title. It’s a little thing, but it makes a big difference.


Do: Dear John

Don’t: Dear Valued Supporter

Personal Impact Story
I felt so valued last time I received a handwritten note from a nonprofit that I support. Because I know they took time to write it. What made this gesture even more meaningful was that my husband and I are not the biggest givers on their list, and we even had to reduce our monthly giving that year. But, that card made me realize how much they value their supporters. It doesn’t matter how much someone gives; they are thankful regardless. Sending that card did more than make me feel appreciated; it showed me their culture, and that resonated volumes. ~ Skylar Zilka

2. Write to One Person

You don’t want to speak to the masses; instead, write your message as if only one person will read it. Think about it. When someone opens your email, is there a tiny huddle of co-workers reading it at once? Does the whole family gather around to read your email together? Of course not! There’s only one set of eyeballs reading it at a time, so write it that way.

The easiest way to write to one person is to use "you" language. "You" is a verbal finger-point that makes people feel seen, and that's why it's so powerful. It puts the recipient in the narrative and makes them an active participant of the story.


Do: You made this possible.

Don't: Our donors made this possible.

3. Recognize Your Donors, Not The Organization

So many organizations miss this one. They say how many years they've been serving their community and what accomplishments they made this year. Then they thank their donors for "helping them" do so much good. Instead of sharing what your organization achieved, tell your donors what they made possible.

I’ve learned it can get fuzzy to say how your donors “helped you” accomplish something. When possible, it’s better to use language that makes your donor the hero, not the sidekick to your great heroism. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but it’s something to be aware of when you’re writing a donor thank you message.


Do: You provided meals for 150 kids to eat this year.

Don’t: You helped our organization raise $10,000 for kids to eat this year.

Don't: Our organization raised $10,000 for kids to eat this year.

4. Share The Direct Impact

Don't just thank them for their generosity this year; instead, thank them for a specific thing they made possible. Maybe there are several ways your donors helped this year, but thanking them is an opportunity to highlight one special outcome they made happen.

The key is to tie your thank-you to a real impact story. Your donors want to know how their support made a direct impact. So get specific. Share names. Hone in on one person in the masses that were helped this year. Sharing a single story of tangible impact will resonate far more than a generalized thank you ever will.


Do: Because you gave, a child, like Kendra, can go to school this year.

Don't: We raised enough money to send 50 kids to school.

(PS: If you want in-depth information on how to write donor thank yous, check out this extensive resource from the National Council of Nonprofits.)

What messaging tips are you going to use in your donor thank yous?

If this is the first time using these messaging tips, I encourage you to pay attention. See how well this round of thank you does in comparison to previous ones. You might be surprised at what a difference these tiny changes can make.

If you want help writing donor thank yous that stick, I would be honored to chat with you. Let’s get in touch and see how we might work together on a project like this one!