Great Ways to Say Thank You to Non-Profit Donors

Category: Thank Yous

Saying thank you, in theory, is a very simple task: you can choose the medium you want to send your thank you through, write a fantastic message, and send it. But it is never actually that simple, especially in the non-profit space.

We all know that sending thank you messages to first-time donors, major donors, or even just recurring donors is vital to developing strong relationships and a larger community. But it always falls to the wayside for a few reasons – this is something we discuss at length in a recent article we published; check it out if you’re curious to understand how the cost of your time is so crucial to your work-life balance.

Regardless, let’s assume that you’ve made the steps to start sending automated handwritten thank yous to donors once they have made their first donation – the premise of this article is “what now?” Now that you’ve sent a thank you note, how can we proceed? Should we send another thank you note a month from now? Send updates about where their money is being used?

All of these questions, and more, will be answered in this article. To begin, we need to garner an understanding of why expressing gratitude for donors even matters.

Why is expressing gratitude and thanking donors so important?

From our estimation, there are three main reasons why thanking donors is an instrumental method to help retain donors, get new donors, and have an overall greater impact on society.

Community Building:

Expressing gratitude and thanking donors is a great way to build community. As mentioned before, people want to feel valued, heard, and appreciated. Having a trusted source that acknowledges, recognizes, and thanks donors for their contribution is an important step in making them feel included in the community you have created.


People who feel appreciated are likely to continue donating and supporting your cause. This means that sending a thank you for even the smallest contribution is crucial in retaining your donors and ensuring that you will have a reliable base of support for years to come.

If you don’t send any sort of thank you or even inform donors about your charity, retaining these donors will become infinitely more difficult, forcing you to spend even more money on your marketing budget to get new supporters.

research from Bloomerang; a graphic with 8 sections, each one including a numerical value talking about reasons why supporters stopped giving

Research from Bloomerang, seen in the above graphic, shows that donors stop giving for many reasons. The key numbers to keep in mind are as follows:

  • 5% thought the charity did not need them
  • 8% were never informed as to how their contribution was used
  • 9% did not even remember donating
  • 13% did not get thanked
  • 18% thought the charity had poor overall communication

Adding all of these numbers up, 53% of donors who stopped donating did so because the charity never reached out to them in some meaningful way, leading to them feeling like they were unvalued.

Through proper appreciation and communication, you can effectively double the number of donors you retain, which will help to grow your business in another way.

Word-of-mouth growth:

By thanking your donors, you are making them feel like part of the community, thus creating a network of people who are more likely to share their experiences with others.

By thanking, expressing gratitude, and informing them about the impact of their donations, you are providing them with a sense of accomplishment. This encourages them to talk about their experience with others, generating organic growth for your organization and expanding the reach of your mission.

Tip: pay attention to the donor’s gift and communication

Knowing who your biggest spenders are is key to devising an effective thank-you strategy. If a donor was open, interested, and generous, these are the people you should be putting extra effort into thanking. On the other hand, if a donor was more reluctant and had to be cajoled into giving, you may need to put in extra work as these people will be harder to retain.

It’s also important to take note of the type and amount of gift given, as well as how much communication there was beforehand. This is invaluable information that can be used to craft an individualized thank-you strategy that will be sure to make your donors feel appreciated. After all, feeling valued is key to creating loyalty! So use the information to your advantage and show some extra gratitude to those people who have gone above and beyond.

From here, let’s segment donors by how new they are to your mission to understand the best ways to communicate appreciation for various donor groups.

The best ways to say thank you to new donors

Saying thank you to new donors is the ‘easiest’ group to say thank you to. Considering they have little experience interacting with you or your organization, the ball is in your court to set the standard of thank-yous that they receive.

The idea here is to start small, and as they become recurring donors over time, offer other benefits and ways of saying thank you. But for new donors, there are three methods we’d recommend to start with:

Send a note acknowledging the donation receipt

thank you card

This step is the easiest, and quite a few non-profit organizations already accomplish this: after they donate, send an automated note, whether it be via text, email, or handwritten card, thanking them for their donation, and informing them about some next steps. These next steps can be as simple as letting them know when you will inform them about where their money has been used, or offering some resources available online to learn a bit more about your mission.

There are many ways to write the perfect thank you letter after a donation; but we’ve got you covered with multiple different resources.

Give them a thank-you phone call

There is a huge body of data to suggest that giving a donor a thank you call within 24-48 hours of their donation being received leads to both better retention and a greater follow-up donation.

Research from Penelope Burk, a well-known researcher on non-profit donors, found that donors who received a phone call within 24 hours of receiving their gift led to future donations 39% larger than those who did not receive a phone call.

In another study by Bloomerang, donors who received multiple phone calls donated a second gift after 53 days. For those who didn’t receive a phone call? It took 261 days to donate again. Those numbers should speak for themselves!

Provide educational materials

This could be as simple as a link to an article about the cause, or a PDF that explains your mission statement and how donations are used. Anything that provides more information on the cause can be extremely helpful, as it helps donors feel more connected to your mission and increases their understanding of what they are contributing to.

It’s also a great way to create long-term relationships and ensure that donors stay engaged with your cause and keep giving.

For current donor appreciation, use these different ways to express gratitude

Now that you’ve retained some more donors and have a base of recurring donors, continuing to communicate with them without constantly thanking them is vital. Spamming random thank-you emails in their inbox will just make them feel like you don’t understand them – what you want to do is offer them more ways to connect with and understand your mission, putting a bit more of a personal touch on your interaction with life long supporters.

Create lifelong supporters through fundraising efforts and volunteering

two hands holding a ball of money

One way to show your current donors that you appreciate them is by finding ways for them to stay engaged with your mission. Fundraising events and volunteer opportunities are two great ways for your current donors to stay connected and help further the cause.

These types of events will allow them to feel engaged, as part of an actual cause that they’ve made a monetary and now a tangible impact upon. Emotionally, this will only help your non-profit to resonate more deeply with your current supporters, driving your retention higher and higher the more events you offer to supporters.

Recurring donors appreciate invitations to connect with other donors

Chances are, you have many different types of donors. Whether it’s a single one-time donation or a larger recurring gift, all your donors have something in common: they are passionate about your cause and want to help.

Allowing them to meet other like-minded people who have made donations can help them connect and build relationships around your organization. Inviting donors to join events or social media groups specifically for donors is a great way to show your appreciation while also connecting them with people they can relate to.

Send a handwritten note thanking them for their continued support

pile of handwritten notes with Handwrytten in bottom right

If you haven’t sent your non-profit donors a thoughtful note at this point, this would be the perfect time to do so.

You receive thousands of emails per month, so getting another one is more of a burden than anything. But when you get a handwritten note from a non-profit that you’ve supported for a few months, the sense of belonging you have is indescribable. Because 99% of handwritten mailers are opened, the ability to spread a positive message and develop better customer retention is extremely high.

Luckily, we can help you out with this; we’ll discuss our platform a bit further down in the article, but to sum things up, we can sync with your data cloud, or even just take some from your annual report, and automatically send handwritten cards to the specific groups of customers you want, whenever you want.

Creative ways to say thank you to major donors

Now that you’ve gone through the basics of expressing gratitude to your main donor base, it’s time to get into some more creative ways of saying thanks to major donors.

Major donor appreciation gifts

gift box on a wooden table

Providing your major donors with appreciation gifts, whether they be merchandise, flowers, or even a gift card to a restaurant they like to go to goes a long way in expressing your gratitude and making sure that they know how appreciated they are.

A small gift doesn’t have to be expensive either; sometimes it’s the smaller, more thoughtful gifts that really show how much you care and understand who they are; this is essential. Providing a personalized gift will show that you genuinely do care about your relationship with them and see them as more than someone who has recurringly donated to your non-profit.

Donor spotlight (public recognition)

Some major donors also like to be publicly recognized, but you should make sure that they are ok with you doing so first.

Post on your social platforms to incentivize others

If you have a few major donors already, this is an excellent time to highlight donors on your social platforms and make it known that you have donors like them out there.

This will inspire others to donate as well, and if you don’t offer certain incentives for donating, add some to your post as well. This will help incentivize others to join the cause, and your major donor base will be more than proud to be the example that other people follow.

This will ultimately increase your donations and help you reach whatever goal you have set for yourself.

Create a donor appreciation wall

donor recognition wall with various names on leaf shaped plates

Yet another popular donor appreciation tactic is to create a donor appreciation wall within your office. This wall can be filled with pictures of your donors, their names, and quotes that they have said about your cause!

This is a great way to show your appreciation and give them the recognition they deserve; you can see in the above example from Donorbox are wall with a unique design that can set donors apart from one another.

It’s also a great way to bring everyone together in one physical space, which can help with morale and create positive energy in the office.

Send an office tour invite

Another way to show how much you appreciate your major donors is by sending them an office tour invite. This will give them the chance to explore the inner workings of your non-profit and see the amazing work you are doing firsthand.

This will give them a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes, making them feel more a part of your cause, and will help to develop the community aspect we mentioned earlier in this article.

Other ways to say thank you

But beyond thanking new donors, recurring donors, and major donors, what are some general ways to show gratitude for all of your donors? There are many different ways to do so, but we think there are two main strategies you can follow to help all of your donors feel appreciated and heard.

Gather feedback from everyone

The first way is to regularly gather feedback from all of your donors. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or simply just by having casual conversations with them. Gathering feedback helps you understand what sort of experiences your donors are having and where improvements can be made to best serve them.

You can better understand how your communication is received by donors, allowing you to optimize your donor outreach strategies and ways of saying thank you.

It can also help you understand how donors feel about your mission – do they feel like they are an integral part of it? Or do they not even really understand what you’re doing, or where their money is going? Using this information to craft and modulate future donor communications is vital.

Build a personal connection by sharing mission updates

The second way to show gratitude is by sharing regular mission updates with donors. This can be done through blog posts, mailings, emails, or even through social media.

This gives donors a chance to stay up to date on all the amazing work that you are doing and how their donations have helped make it happen. It gives them an insight into the progress you are making and why their donations are so important.

It also helps to build a personal connection between you and your donors, as they can stay informed on what is going on with the organization and feel like they are truly part of the cause.

Donor appreciation doesn’t have to be complicated – as long as you are thoughtful and intentional with your words and actions, your donors will feel appreciated and supported.

By taking the time to thank your donors with personalized messages that are tailored to each group, you can ensure a positive donor experience and stronger relationships with your supporters. This is where we can come in and accelerate your growth as a non-profit.

How Handwrytten can help you say thank you to donors

Based on data compiled in our 2022 Consumer Outreach Survey, handwritten cards and notes are 32 times more meaningful than a brochure, and 8 times more meaningful than an email. By default, that means that a handwritten card has a higher return on investment than standard direct mail.

Even with that in mind, you may still be thinking – ‘I still have bigger fish to fry than writing thank you cards all the time’. And that is extremely fair. But in 2022 and beyond, technologies evolve and will continue to evolve that allow us to live easier, more fastidious lives.

Automation and technology are tools that continue to grow and save us time – services like Zapier allow you to automate and integrate services, ultimately allowing you to spend time on things that you know are immediately urgent. With Handwrytten, you can get that same kind of benefit.

Our industry-standard handwriting robots are the first of their kind, and combined with our multi-platform app, you can design your handwritten cards whenever and wherever you need to.

There are multiple different handwriting styles to choose from to personalize what you send, and after you’ve typed up what you want your handwritten letter to say, we handle everything else for you – writing, packaging, and shipping. We can even insert mail inserts within the envelope to emphasize to clients: “We care.”

This level of support will not go unheard – with so many clients receiving gifts, thank-you cards, and welcome letters, all handwritten – you can set yourself apart when it comes to delivering a quality customer experience.

But most importantly, using Handwrytten to send handwritten cards will finally allow you to check that final to-do off your list, to complete that decidedly important donor or client outreach that could be the difference between customer retention and lack thereof. With our automated handwriting robots and our simple-to-use platform, there is no reason not to take advantage of the benefits we can offer you.

Check out our services now if you’re interested in learning more – we offer specific platform integrations for automotive marketers, real estate marketers, and more!

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