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We all had the importance of saying thank you drilled into us from an early age. Maybe it was your parents making you sit at the kitchen table to handwrite thank you notes for your birthday gifts or the stare they gave you to make sure you said thank you like you meant it at holiday gift exchanges. Maybe you had a kindergarten teacher who used please & thank you like currency in the classroom. While saying thank you might look a little different now, it is no less important. Especially for a nonprofit.

The truth is that saying thanks does more than just show your appreciation for their generosity. It helps to build relationships. Building relationships with your donors is essential to your nonprofit’s success. While the thank you that comes with their donation receipt is a great start (and important for their records), go a step further. And what better way to start the year than showing your donors you value them? Just make sure you’re doing it right.

👍Be Personal

Yes, you are thanking them for their money, but make sure you aren’t just equating them to a dollar amount. Thank them for their individual generosity and for caring enough about the cause to get involved. When you reach out to them, add personal touches so the thank you message comes from a person and to the donor – not from the organization to all the donors.

  • Address the person by name
  • Sign the thank you with the name of someone at the organization
  • Note the campaign they donated to and where the money went
  • Recognize their past support if they are repeat donors

Thanks to awesome strides in AI, you can personalize automated thank you messages using even when you are sending a high-volume communication. And those customizations can make a huge difference when the donor is considering whether or not to continue supporting your nonprofit.

👎 Don’t Overthink It

Which one do you like better?

Sample #1 “On behalf of [nonprofit], it would be our honor to express our sincere gratitude for your benevolent act of charity toward bettering the world this preceding year.”


Sample 2: “Thank you for your generous gift last year and your support in making the world a better place. From everyone here at [nonprofit], we cannot thank you enough!”

Which one sounds better? Don’t make things more complicated by trying to sound overly sophisticated or adding jargon where it isn’t needed. This is meant to be a simple note to show your appreciation and strengthen the relationship. If you want your donor to feel appreciated, speak from the heart. 

Also, this isn’t the time to write a novel. While it is a good idea to tie their donation to the impact your nonprofit or food bank is making, this is not an annual report. You don’t need to include everything you’ve done or provide much detail about the organization. They donated because they are already familiar with your nonprofit! Your donors will appreciate the message, but if they have to keep scrolling, it will lose its impact.

👍Make a Good First Impression

Of course you shouldn’t play favorites. Every donor and every dollar matters. But you should pay extra attention to those who are new to your organization. By making a great first impression with a heartfelt and prompt thank you, they are more likely to turn that one-time donation into long term support. Let them know that you value their donation and the new relationship with them.

Another thing to consider when making a good first (or second or third) impression is the timing of the thank you message. If you send it too soon, it might look like an automated message (even if it is). But if you wait too long, they might feel like you are only reaching out to get more money. Waiting a couple days is ideal.

👎 Don’t Immediately Ask for More Money

Speaking of asking for money – this isn’t the time. Making another ask right away might make your donors feel like their initial donation didn’t have enough of an impact or that they are just viewed as cash machines. Remember that this will certainly not be the last time you communicate with them. There will be time later to send them requests for more support.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t tug at their heartstrings a bit to encourage them to take the next step on their own to donate again. Include meaningful statements or testimonials from the demographic you serve and emphasize their role in making the world a better place.

👍Offer a Way to Connect

Relationships are not one way streets. Make sure that you are giving them the opportunity to keep the conversation open, if they choose.

  • Provide the name and email/phone number of a real live person they can contact
  • Link to your website without asking for donations. For example, “Check out where your dollars are being used.”
  • Include your social media accounts so they can keep up with all the ways they are helping

These are not the focal point of the message. Instead of including them all in the body of the email, add one or two to a post script. They let the donor know they are invited into your inner circle without appearing like you’re fishing for followers.

We can help.

Mittun knows nonprofits because nonprofits are all we do. We’ve been building food bank websites and crafting nonprofit digital marketing strategies for more than a decade. We offer enterprise marketing solutions for food banks and nonprofits – design services, ad management, website management and more.

If you want some more tips or a partner to help you boost any or all parts of your donors’ journey, we got you covered.

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