donor thank you letter

Acquiring new donors is one of the greatest expenses in fundraising. It costs 10 times as much to acquire a new donor as it does to communicate with an existing one, yet few nonprofits even have a new donor welcome program.  

It shows in our sector’s abysmal attrition of new donors.  

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Report, only 19% of new donors will give again after their first gift. However, once that donor makes a second gift 63% will give again.   

How do we get that second gift? Two words: thank them!  

But how? What should you say? What goes into a winning donor thank you letter? Are there things you can say that will make them give again?  

The Anatomy of a Perfect Donor Thank You Letter 

[Today’s Date] 


[Name of Recipient]


[City, St Zip]


Dear [Name of Recipient],  

Dramatic opener [Start in the middle of the action, with a dramatic story, descriptive details, an unexpected narrator or donor centered compliment.]

i.e. “You just did a great thing.”

i.e. “You are a rare kind of generous.”

i.e. “You have no idea how much your help has meant.  

Short impact story [Talk about how their gift met the need with descriptive details that take me to the action. If possible, use a photo, ideally a close-up image with the subject looking at the camera and share a story about one person/animal who was helped.] 

i.e. Your gift gives kids like Denzel hope. Denzel came to the Boys and Girls Club while his mom picked up extra shifts at the nursing home where she works as an RN. Unsure of what to do with her eight-year-old son while she worked, her neighbor suggested the Club.”   

i.e.  “For Jenna, you are a lifeline. When she came to Lifeworks, she was a 17-year-old runaway fleeing her abusive boyfriend. Facing the holidays alone and pregnant, she had nowhere to turn. 

Thanks to you, Jenna was welcomed into Lifeworks and found haven in a cozy safe room of her own.  

Because of your kindness she got the therapy, medical care, and parenting classes she needed and delivered a happy, healthy baby boy.”  

[Thank them] For responding so quickly and generously and share how their gift will be used.  

i.e.Thanks to you Denzel is spending his summer learning new computer programming languages. He says wants to be a computer programmer when he grows up. With your help, he’ll be a great one!”  

[Reflect on their kindness, compassion, loyalty, dedication, and/or big heart] 

i.e. “Your kindness and compassion supporting Denzel says everything there is to know about your generous and caring heart.”  

Include your tax id #, gift amount and date of the gift so it can serve as their tax receipt. 

i.e. For your tax records, your $500 donation to Lifeworks was received on December 15, 2020.  

[Next step] Share when they will hear from you next to offer a preview of next interaction, 

i.e. You’ll hear updates from us in our monthly newsletter but please call me at (888) 321-4321 if you’d like to stop by the shelter and meet Mr. Pickles or one of our other amazing dogs or cats, and see your donation at work! 

i.e. You’ll meet more kids like Jenna that you are helping in our email newsletter. Please email me, or call me at (512) 452-1746 if you’d like to chat or see your gifts at work.

[Closing] i.e. “Warmly,” or if possible, use a mission infused closing i.e. “For the Love of Cats, For the Love of Music, For the Love of Film,”  


[Signature] Ideally this is live or printed and if digital is scanned

[Typed Name] 


[Phone number] 



[P.S.] *Always use the P.S.  It can reinforce the thanks, be a special exclusive invite or just a reminder you are here for them whenever they have a question and to find your business card enclosed.

Always include your business card with the letter!  

Want a little extra help proofing your thank you copy? Give your copy the “Ahern Audit” inspired by leading donor communications guru and author Tom Ahern. Just copy and paste your copy and voila! Instantly you’ll know what reading level you are at and how donor centric your copy is. Pro-tip: be a smart cookie and bookmark it so you can test *all* your donor communications – appeals, newsletters, annual reports and more!  

This basic thank you letter template from Pamela Grow can be used by any nonprofit fundraiser as an additional starting point to crafting an effective acknowledgement!

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.